Today, news reports revealed that disgraced former Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Victor Barron was once again denied parole. Apparently, the inability to receive bribes has impaired his abilty to pay his debt to society.
Sadly, Barron is almost forgotten today, his crimes eclipsed by news of trials involving more glamorous organized criminal enterprises like the Gotti and Garson crime families. But, it was Barron's actions which opened up the floodgates on attempts to "reform" the judicial selection process.
"Reformers", in this instance, divide neatly between those who seek to implement "merit selection", i.e, making the judicial selection process less democratic (by eliminating elections), and those who want to make the selection process more so (by having real ones). At the Supreme Court level, the current process, which involves having party nominees chosen by judical nominating conventions, combines the evils of both systems with the virtues of neither. Some "reformers" will settle for either extreme against the present muddled middle, and I have to concede that even selecting names from a hat or casting lots at Purim time would probably eliminate some of the current system's flaws.
However, today's decision by the Appellate Division, 1st Department, in the CFE case, together with the impending attempts to convert Roe v. Wade into an empty shell, highlight the problems with "merit selection". Those who control the Executive Branch determine who has the "merit". The First Department's appointed Appellate Division largely consists of upstate Republican hacks imported from the vicintiy of the Cheese Museum. In many ways, the byproducts (AKA our local judicial bench) produced by our own local political culture (which is, at least, more liberal and more racially diverse) look far better in comparison.
"Reformers" can argue, with some justice, that replication of the State and Federal appointment process is not what they seek, instead using as their model the merit selection panel instituted at the City level by Ed Koch. In rebuttal, I ask them to consider the name of just one judge who first arrived on the bench after being selected by this panel: Victor Barron.