Daily News

September 17, 2003


Despite the arrests of some of his judges and a wide-ranging criminal investigation, Clarence Norman, the borough's Democratic leader, can chalk up another glorious year. Yesterday, at his judicial nominating convention, he dubbed five party loyalists state Supreme Court justices-to-be. They're assured of the job. In Democratic Brooklyn, the November election is a foregone conclusion.
Norman could have supported a dissident Civil Court judge, Margarita Lopez Torres, just to lend some hint of credence to his phony reforms. He didn't. He fought her nomination and rammed through his slate - three incumbent justices and the five newbies. Eight slots were available, and Norman went eight for eight.
The situation in Kings County, though, is roiling. After the comical confab ended, two district leaders almost came to blows over the Torres matter. Too bad the confrontation was of little consequence. Norman's slate had already won the day. It wasn't pretty to watch, but the machine made its sausage.
"We had an open democratic process," intoned chief sausage maker Norman in his best Orwellian doublespeak.
There's more entertainment on the way. Tonight, the Bronx Democratic machine will grind out its links, er, justices. Tomorrow, it'll be the turn of the Manhattan Democrats and King Tom Manton of Queens.
What reform hope there is has been placed in the Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections, which yesterday called its first witness. Mayor Bloomberg. Who bluntly told the panel members to "get off your high horse" and do something about judicial corruption. He came out foursquare in support of an appointed judiciary.
Short of that, the mayor said, the political parties should use true independent screening committees, not the shams that most of the Democratic organizations employ. Manton doesn't even bother with a screening committee; he picks the judges himself.
The commission is not charged with considering an appointment system for judges. But that's precisely what it must consider. As Bloomberg said: "Knowing where the local [political] clubhouse is should not be a prerequisite for becoming a judge."
Currently, that's about the only prerequisite.
Is this any way to mete out justice? Ask the people, not the machine politicians.

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