Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

Keep up to date with the latest Newspaper and Internet articles on this year's Brooklyn Surrogate Court race

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lopez Torres Declared the Winner

By JIM HINCH - NY Post October 12, 2005


Declared the winner.

October 12, 2005 -- Here comes the judge — and she's going to clean house.

In a slap to Brooklyn's Democratic machine, a Queens judge yesterday ruled that Margarita Lopez Torres will keep her 102- vote victory as a Surrogate Court judge in last month's primary election.

"Yes!" exulted Lopez Torres as she rode the elevator down from the courtroom where Judge Leslie G. Leach ordered her certified as the election winner. "It's a fresh start, a new day."

The reformist jurist said she intends to root out the "entrenched culture" of Brooklyn's patronage-ridden court.

Party loyalists had worked night and day for weeks to find enough votes to swing the election to Supreme Court Judge Diana Johnson, who attends disgraced former party boss Clarence Norman's church.

But they came up short. First, they said more than 1,000 votes should have been counted because they belonged to registered voters who simply forgot to mark that they were Democrats on the ballot.

But it emerged in court yesterday that many of those so-called "votes" were by people who didn't live in Brooklyn, weren't Democrats or were convicted felons

As a backup, Johnson's lawyer, Mitch Alter, asked to have the entire election tossed out because, he said, many voters had forged signatures at poll sites.

But many of those "forgeries" also didn't pan out, since they included votes by prominent city officials who had indeed voted.

After the ruling, Johnson said it would be "unseemly" for her to comment.

Alter said the Board of Elections didn't count questionable ballots in Brooklyn because they were trying to help mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer avoid a runoff.

A board lawyer denied that claim.

Lopez Torres said she would end past surrogate judges' habit of doling out estates and other lucrative legal work to cronies.



New York Daily News -
Lawsuits tossed in Surrogate's recount

Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

The Brooklyn Democratic organization was dealt another blow yesterday after a pair of lawsuits were dismissed in a nasty fight over a powerful Surrogate's Court judge job.
Margarita Lopez Torres eked out a 102-vote victory over Diana Johnson for the post last month. Johnson and the county party sued, arguing that about 1,500 disqualified ballots should be included in the final tally.

Queens Supreme Court Judge Leslie Leach ruled yesterday that Johnson couldn't object to the ballots because her campaign approved of disqualifying them when they believed she was leading the close race. Lopez Torres' victory should be certified by the Board of Elections, he ordered.

Lopez Torres - considered a key reform figure in Brooklyn's scandal-racked judiciary - said her victory sent a signal to party leaders.

"It will no longer be business as usual, and they know that," Lopez Torres told the Daily News. "People want a courthouse that serves people, not one that enriches certain individuals."

But the electoral saga isn't over. Johnson's lawyer Mitch Alter pledged to appeal, calling Leslie's decision "all screwed up."

Alter plans to charge the Board of Elections engaged in a complex scheme to help Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer avoid a runoff election by counting certain ballots in the Bronx and not in Brooklyn.

Ballots that could have tilted the election in Johnson's favor weren't counted, Alter charged.

"For the Board of Elections to count ballots with a defect in one county and not count them in Brooklyn is outrageous," Alter said.

A Board of Elections spokesman didn't return calls for comment.



Dem boss battle heats up

October 12, 2005

A battle is raging among Brooklyn Democrats as the man who would fill deposed boss Clarence Norman's shoes pushes for a vote on the post - while opponents stall for time.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick), a North Brooklyn powerbroker, says he has enough support to become the next leader of one of the nation's largest Democratic organizations.

But Boerum Hill district leader Jo Anne Simon fired off a letter yesterday to other leaders charging that they were on "a collision course" with disaster if they elect Lopez after Norman was convicted for felony campaign abuses last month.

"We shouldn't rush to elect somebody who might have some of the same problems as Clarence did," said Simon, a foe of Lopez's who charged he has "ethical issues."

Simon and other self-described reformers want to choose an interim boss through a public interview process.

"Let's decide what the qualities of the leader should be, not through some backroom power play deal," said Park Slope district leader Alan Fleishman.

Brooklyn district leaders were set to vote for a new county boss last night, but dissenters succeeded in pushing back the vote until at least next Thursday, giving them a chance to find a challenger to Lopez.

Meanwhile, Lopez argued that a party leader should be elected in time to influence the mayoral election next month.

"Forestalling having leadership in place will only further reinforce the image we're totally disorganized and dysfunctional," Lopez told the Daily News.

"This is an attempt to block ... the majority of county leaders from voting in favor of my candidacy," he charged.

Simon disagreed with Lopez's rationale for electing a leader.

"Our party has been in disarray for so long, it's ridiculous to assert that," she said.

Despite the focus on the Brooklyn party after Norman's fall, it is doubtful a real reformer could be elected because entrenched party leaders would inevitably choose one of their own, said Dorothy Siegel, chairwoman of the South Brooklyn Working Families Party club.

"I don't think you'll find a reform person that will be acceptable because that person will end the machine, and they're all dependent upon it to support them in their time of need," Siegel said.

Acting party chief Freddie Hamilton said that if at least 21 district leaders want an election, it will happen. Lopez claims to have 26 supporters in his camp.

"The meeting is going to take place and I believe the election will take place," Hamilton said. "I agree we should give ourselves more time, but the majority will prevail."


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