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Brennan Center Strongly Supports Spitzer’s Proposed Reforms of Judicial Selection and Legislative Re

April 26, 2007

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jonathan Rosen, BerlinRosen Public Affairs (646) 452–5637

Brennan Center Strongly Supports Spitzer’s Proposed Reforms of Judicial Selection and Legislative Redistricting

New York – Today the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law applauded Governor Spitzer’s proposals for legislation to reform judicial selection and a constitutional amendment for drawing legislative districts, calling his action “a breakthrough for government reform efforts in New York state and a model for governors across the country.”

The Brennan Center, together with co-counsel Arnold & Porter LLP and Jenner & Block LLP, represents the plaintiffs in litigation now before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges the constitutionality of New York’s current system of selecting trial court judges through closed judicial conventions. Two federal courts, including a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, have found New York’s current system unconstitutional. The Brennan Center is enthusiastic about Spitzer’s proposal for legislation to reform judicial selection, but takes no position on the Governor’s additional proposal for an appointed judiciary.

The Brennan Center has also studied redistricting systems around the country, and has counseled legislators and advocates on the most effective way to reform redistricting. It has filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in several recent redistricting cases.

The statement may be attributed to Michael Waldman, Executive Director of the Brennan Center:

“The Governor’s proposals are nothing short of remarkable. It’s been clear for a long time that New York’s government is broken, but no one has ever tried to fix it. The Governor made it clear again today that he’s putting reform at the center of his agenda. The reforms he proposed today go to the heart of democracy, how we choose who sits on the bench and who serves in the legislature.”

“New York’s current system of picking judges has undermined the rights of voters and shut many qualified candidates out of the political process for more than 80 years.”

“The proposals the Governor announced today will grant voters relief from a statutory system that discriminated against rank and file voters and candidates not favored by party bosses.

“The Governor’s plan, along with proposals made by Senator John DeFrancisco, will ultimately strengthen New York’s judiciary. Under the current system, many well-qualified lawyers re never even considered for judgeships because they lack ties to party leaders. Allowing all well-qualified candidates to compete for their party’s nomination will improve confidence in our courts.”

“The Governor’s proposal on redistricting offers a real chance to end the worst excesses of partisan gerrymandering.  Under the current system, legislators decide every ten years which citizens should re-elect them, and carve up the state accordingly. The results are a legislature with an incumbent re-election rate more reminiscent of the Supreme Soviet than an advanced democracy.”

“The best way to stop legislators from manipulating district lines out of self-interest is to stop legislators from drawing district lines. District lines should be drawn by people with meaningful independence from the legislators whose fates they influence. Governor Spitzer’s plan is an enormous step along that road.”

“These proposals all work together. If we deal with campaign finance, re-districting and judicial selection as well as creating election day voter registration – we can make New York a model for effective participatory democracy.”

“As we saw this week with campaign finance reform – these are hard fights.  But they are also the kind of big transformative fights that will define the Governor’s time in office. We applaud Eliot Spitzer for having the vision and the guts to take them on and look forward to supporting him every step of the way.”