On Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 10am, Brennan Center for Justice Senior Counsel Frederick A.O., Jr. "Fritz" Schwarz will argue Lopez Torres v NY State Board of Elections before the U.S. Supreme Court. The New York State Constitution says New York’s Supreme Court (trial court) judges should be chosen by the people. But then, through a byzantine statutory scheme, New York makes that democratic promise illusory. Instead, the statutory scheme facilitates categorical control by local party machines, and crushes internal party dissent. The result is that rank and file voters are precluded from influencing the choice of their own party’s standard bearer. The Brennan Center challenged the constitutionality of this last vestige of Tammany Hall. The stakeholders in the closed-door status quo intervened to defend it. But the courts agreed that New York’s scheme is an anti-democratic sham that is antithetical to the First Amendment; undermines New York’s bench; and makes a mockery of democracy.
The case history can be found here and a complete backgrounder with “best of” excerpts from a powerful set of amicus briefs filed by organizations on the right and left can be found here. The current status is in January 2006, U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson entered a preliminary injunction against New York's the system. In August, 2006 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit unanimously affirmed Judge Gleeson’s ruling. In February 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court granted review in the case.
For more information on this case, please contact James Sample or Mike Webb at 212–998–6730.