Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Voting Wrongs Act

Daily News -- July 23, 2005
Editorial

The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund has called on the Justice Department to rule that Gov. Pataki and the Legislature violated the federal Voting Rights Act last month when they created a new Surrogate's Court judgeship in Brooklyn. The feds should take their sweet time considering the matter.

Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno established the post in the final moments of the legislative session as part of a back-room deal that doled out judgeships to political bosses. The Brooklyn beneficiary was indicted Democratic chief Clarence Norman, for whom Surrogate's Court is a patronage trough.

Albany delivered the fiefdom directly into Norman's hands by establishing the judgeship as of Aug. 1, when the state's election calendar says it's too late to conduct a primary election for the seat. That being the case, the party gets to choose which of its hacks will appear on the November ballot and thus get the 14-year berth overseeing the estates of the dead.

But the election calendar offers another possibility. If the judgeship is vacant after Aug. 8, the governor or the state's chief administrative judge would get to appoint an interim surrogate for one year. The voters would then next year select a judge in the primary and general elections. By waiting to rule until after Aug. 8, the Justice Department would put the power where it belongs - with the voters, not the bosses.

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