CHICAGO, Aug. 30 LAWFUEL – Law News Network — In a victory for Jenner & Block’s pro bono clients, a federal appeals court today affirmed a preliminary injunction barring the state of New York from using “judicial conventions” to select candidates for the state’s supreme court. A trial court had ruled in January that the state’s judicial election scheme was a violation of the
First Amendment associational right of voters and candidates to participate in the electoral process.
“New York’s nominating process, as found by the District Court, does
not merely deprive a candidate of a realistic chance to prevail; rather,
through the use of overlapping and severe burdens, it deprives a candidate
of access altogether,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
wrote in its decision.
The lawsuit, Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections, was
filed by a group of plaintiffs led by New York Judge Margarita Lopez Torres who have argued that the use of the judicial conventions deprive voters of their right to cast a “meaningful” vote for trial court judges and imposes “insurmountable burdens” on challenger candidates who have significant support among party members, but are opposed by their county’s party leaders.
The plaintiffs in Lopez Torres take issue with New York’s so-called
“closed” judicial electoral scheme, in which judicial candidates for the
supreme court (New York’s highest trial court) must be nominated through
judicial conventions. As the Lopez Torres plaintiffs argued at the
preliminary injunction hearing before Judge John Gleeson of the U.S.
District Court for the Eastern District of New York, those conventions are controlled by local party leaders rather than by delegates or voters.
“This is a tremendous victory for New Yorkers,” said Jeremy M. Creelan, senior associate at Jenner & Block who served as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs. “The decision confirms what everyone already knew — the judicial convention system deprives voters of a say in selecting judges and
is firmly unconstitutional. Hopefully this marks the beginning of true
reform for the judicial election process.”
Mr. Creelan, who had served as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs while
working at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and continues to represent the group since joining Jenner & Block.
In granting the preliminary injunction earlier this year, the district
court had ordered that the state implement an open primary election until
the New York legislature enacts a new electoral scheme.
Rounding out the Firm’s team of associates on this pro bono matter are
Brian Hauck, Carletta F. Higginson and Elizabeth Valentina.