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State of New York

Judicial Selection in the States: New York

Overview

News

Yesterday the Alaska Senate State Affairs approved SJR 3, a constitutional amendment to give the governor control over the state s Judicial Council which serves...

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This session has seen two efforts to outright end judicial elections (partisan, nonpartisan, or yes/no retention) and provide instead for reappointment/reconfirmation: Oregon appellate judges (discussed...

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A plan to end elections for Maryland s Circuit Courts and replace then with an appointment/confirmation/reappointment/reconfirmation system has been shelved for 2015. According to news...

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Examines successful judicial selection reform efforts in six states, discussing...

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The structure of the New York judiciary is one of the most complex among the fifty states. There are courts that function throughout the state, including the court of appeals, the appellate division of the supreme court, the supreme court, the court of claims, the surrogate's court, and the family court. There are courts that operate only in New York City, such as the civil and criminal courts of the city of New York; there are courts that exist only outside of New York City, including county courts, city courts, and town and village justice courts; and there are district courts that reside in only two of the state's counties. Additional confusion is created by the fact that New York calls its major trial court the supreme court, a title given to the court of last resort in most other states.

Most of New York's trial court judges are chosen in partisan elections, with judicial candidates competing in primary elections to determine who will represent the party in the general election. According to statute, however, candidates for the supreme court (the major trial court) are chosen through a party convention system, in which primary voters elect convention delegates who choose candidates for the judgeships. Unsuccessful candidates for supreme court judgeships and a watchdog group recently challenged the constitutionality of this process, asserting that it discouraged party outsiders from seeking these seats, but in early 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the system in a unanimous decision (New York Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres). According to Justice Antonin Scalia, who authored the Court's opinion, "None of our cases establishes an individual's constitutional right to have a 'fair shot' at winning the party's nomination."