Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Friday, August 05, 2005

State Asks U.S. to Clear Second Brooklyn Surrogate

New York Law Journal 8-5-05

by Daniel Wise
New York state has asked the U.S. Justice Department to find that a law enacted in June creating a second Surrogate's Court seat in Brooklyn complies with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, according to the state's July 27 filing. Cesar Perales, president of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, said yesterday his group received a copy of the state's filing. Last month the group asked the Justice Department to intervene and find that the new seat compromises minority voting rights because the timing established by the law bypassed the primary process and placed the selection of a candidate in the hands of Democratic leaders in Brooklyn. In its filing, the state claimed there was no infringement of minority voters' rights because minority legislators supported the bill. Meanwhile, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who has been widely reported as the party's likely nominee for the slot, yesterday expressed second thoughts about running. Mr. Lentol, who had stated without qualification in June that he was interested in the nomination, said yesterday that "my heart is in a governmental job that is not finished and I don't know if I want it locked in a judge's chambers." In a reference to the Voting Rights Act challenge, he said, "We may be talking about [an election] that may not happen." Richard Emery, an expert on the act, said the defense fund's challenge is a long shot because the Justice Department has not been receptive to voting rights challenges. But he added that a claim that minority voters have been bypassed has "visceral appeal."

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