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Attorney Bill Altreuter - Politics & Judges' nominations

Jul 20, 2014|

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Here's W. A lot to get to today and we started out maybe with some inside baseball but to me this kind of interest thing. And -- along the way you think so too like to join us you're certainly welcome to do so. 8030930. Is the number bill altered areas here is an attorney with all -- to Berlin in the buffalo area. He's a guy who has recently you've probably seen some of the stuff online or maybe a letter to the editor recently in the newspaper. He's a guy that at least on his mind today has how we pick our judges and there's been a little bit of a change there. It is something we can talk about in the context of politics and I think it's also something that may be we need to explore because it's basic civics one on one stuff that we're sort of aware of but didn't really know. And if we can take a minute or 2 this morning to sort of a delve into that and and -- and educate the public we're certainly going to do some of that. Phil thanks for joining us glad you're here. I'm glad to be heard. You've certainly set it up so that our little esoteric corner of the world is. I'd like esoteric. Well they're gonna love this conversation could tell me how was it right now I mean I think people go to the ballot box and they see judges on there. But they don't necessarily understand. How the judges get there on the ballot the process is different. Then the guy that goes through a neighborhood knocking on doors getting the signatures how is that we select their judges and then after after that one on one. Course number two will look at how it's changing and the issues that you think are really worth looking at now wellcare. The kind of person that really loves to vote then you go to the primaries and you vote at primaries wells in the generals and in the primaries you've probably seen. A list of candidates to the judicial nominating convention. And it's a slate of people. Some of them are names that you recognized typically your assemblyman your city councilman -- Local whoever will be on on that so this is kind of light. Voting for the Electoral College we pick guys that pick the guy. Yes exactly like that OK and then these candidates to the judicial nominating convention for reach party. Get together and have a little meeting and the -- typically what happens is the chairman for the local party says this year our judicial candidates slate is going to be a -- and -- NCA now. In Erie county in the eighth judicial district which comprises of ball Western New York. We're kind of an unusual situation for New York State because we really do have a two party system like New York City where. And being a Democrat has kind of the but the way what's all necessary qualification the way the truth -- the life exactly. We have contested. Elections particularly for judges in in Western New York Republicans and Democrats traditionally. Field a slate of candidates the exception has been. Where. A sitting judges up for renomination. And in that situation usually traditionally for a long. Twenty plus years I've lived in Western New York. Candidates across endorsed by -- the Republicans and the Democrats and not infrequently by the various minor parties as well. And that's it that's seems to be a decent solution to an interesting problem which is. -- fine good judges right if you got someone who's been sitting on the new York State Supreme Court bench for fourteen years. You have a pretty good idea of whether that person is well suited to the job and -- If they were qualified fourteen years ago when they first ran chances are unless they've gone senile or something chances are they are still now qualified it's not like they suddenly. Lose. All the benefit of all the years of expertise they've got absolutely and it may be that maybe they weren't so. Qualified to begin with but now they've got fourteen years of experience either way fall back on you've done you've done exactly and that it is it is an unusual skill set is. A skill set that's distinct from being output lawyer so fourteen years of experience doing it. If you if you made your bones so to speak it makes a certain amount of sense for. Political parties were concerned about merit to evaluate -- performance it and -- -- exactly all right so that is the is. Now talk about what you have noticed is happening united the editor early this week under the headline partisan and get to that the partisan. Partisan manipulation of elections this shameful yeah wow all elections are partisan hello. But manipulation of elections you really feel that there has been a change now. There has been a shift in the last cycle to sitting justices. And -- little void using names to the extent that I can be because you have to appear before exactly sell to sitting judges. Both of whom were extremely well qualified among the very past. We're declined cross endorsement. And then in Bob McCarthy's column in the Buffalo News last week. There was a little blurb at the end that said that the shortest of -- is why we're part of why we're doing this to -- deeper than that you -- why. It was quite striking it's said that in fact that. Steve pigeon is fielding a slate of judicial delegates get delegates to the judicial nominating convention. With the aim of preventing. The Democratic Party from. Cross endorsing two sitting justices this this cycle. And as it happens the two sitting judges. Are excellent judges so it's really. There's no reason not to want them on the bench -- unless there's a reason. Outside of the qualifications in the merits of the candidates and McCarthy speculation is that this is. To the extent that it is speculation maybe he knows. That this is a maneuver and made it intended to excite. Participation in Western New York with the aim ultimately. Of improving the governor's chances for capturing your account he didn't. Another theory is if there are more candidates on the ballot there are more reasons judge -- change come out and vote. And in a area like this where Democrats have registration I think almost 31. It would it would boost the governor's chances that's the theory not just voting remember if you wanna run for judge you got to raise some money OK so we know that. My mailbox has been stuffed. -- -- invitations to horrible cocktail parties to meet judicial candidates. And that that money is is going to be spent on campaigning. Act. At the party level and as Steve -- the former Democratic Party chair and Erie county an ally of the governor. Is also someone who has often talked about. The inadequacies he feels our our president. In the current Democratic Party chair and Erie county Germany's -- -- in the process of fielding an alternative slate of candidates he can and then later down the road point. And say hey look there's another place where Jeremy not done well. This serves him and the broader cause that's his motivation. Tell me very briefly we'll take the -- -- the pick -- -- on the -- -- -- very briefly -- that's his motivation why is -- a problem for you and the legal community. Well it's a problem because. In the legal community what we really wanna fall under the the most qualified individuals. To sit on the bench and decide to cases that are that are that are clients -- that bring before them. The New York State constitution requires that we have judicial elections for Supreme Court does is the nominating process. The process by which they get on the ballot. Is this complicated convention system which is a kind of a black boxes. Produces that produces candidates with no democratic. Function at all. And on the evidence that I'm seeing. Scant attention to -- And we'll pick it up right there on the other side bill all -- -- is here he's an attorney with altered -- Berlin. He says that the manipulation of elections is on he says that some of the things that we used to do in terms of picking judicial candidates. Aren't necessarily what we're doing this time around. And he says he doesn't like that much if it's something you'd like to weigh in out of that matter if you just like to ask questions and learn a little bit more about the process. Let's open the phone lines now 8030930s. And number. Do you think this system is in any way rigged against judges who can really do the good job or for that matter. You're your person at the bottom of the pile Europe person who needs to have a voice in the process may -- you like to buck back against what bill saying. Maybe election of judges by party line is a better thing either way we'd like to hear from 8030930s. Number. More with bill -- -- after this it's hard line on news radio 930 WB -- -- it's hard line news radio 930 WB and good morning this is debut though. Before we're done in the next hour and a half you're gonna touch on Ukraine and the plane. We're gonna touch on the situation. And Manhattan actually it's not coming out of Albany but out of Manhattan. The probe of state senator George -- -- campaign funds. We're also going to look at the scenario that says along the way perhaps. Governor Cuomo quote lose there's I doubt that it says that will get to all of that but right now we're talking about. Judicial elections. You might think what he -- your your awfully esoteric today. You're awful inside baseball today. But it's important in one way in particular bill -- Twitter is here you were talking about the shift basically. From a situation where most judges used to be cross endorsed. Republicans and Democrats would get together and say hey this guy is worthy enough that we both put our brand on impersonate. We've moved away from that and bill before tech couple calls here in 030 my -- and number. Tell me why that's a problem for you why is this move that we're seeing such a dangerous evil rotten horrible thing. Dangers evil Oracle's perhaps so I play OK okay hyperbole. But may be a step down a path that we don't wanna -- all a -- because merit selection of judges makes cents. You want the most capable person to. People presiding over you were dispute -- if I'm Jane heard show in the bar at the corner. Talking over the fence and cutting mile long. I'm gonna wanna be a part of this process I elect -- state legislator I -- my county legislator I elected counties that. I have the right to pick people that I want in office. Why shouldn't that be more the case with judges. While it is the case with judges you have a bright that's guaranteed by the New York State constitution to elect judges and whether or not. That's a good idea I happen to think it's not what if the ballot is. Com. Set up more by the political process more by the parties. Then I have even more input into that they haven't put into the party's right no you don't have him put into the part is what you have is the opportunity to sign a petition. For a delegate to the New York State judicial nominating convention and. And then those people go into a room. And decide who's turn it's going to be to be judged and there's no imprimatur to aura of quality that comes from. Being a candidate for a judicial nominating convention these are typically. Well usually it'll happen as you look at the ballot. And you'll recognize. A local guy Europe councilman your assemblyman someone along those lines these are not typically people who. Know much about what makes you could judge they're not lawyers. Necessarily. And then you'll see -- a long list of names that may -- you know and maybe you don't know and usually these are lawyers with their lawyers that are operating. And social strata below. That the the elected levels and I'll -- And again. They're really there to demonstrate their fealty to. The party chairman they're there are they are typically there there are non. That they don't run. In in favor of particular candidate or not. The chairman will show up with a roster. And it's extremely rare that the nominating zeal and create a real outside guy exact OK I get to -- and I've ever -- -- it. George in -- second thanks for -- line you're on the air. Yeah all I I know her pregnancy it was an air -- -- in in a sitting judge about. Is that who bought the tickets that he tactic he would overload you with -- the piper is. The party that we keep our another judge out. And giving him when he deserved the victory and for fourteen years you mark my out and that's how he thought he would indicate how the iron on tickets to. I raising money for the particular -- -- That's right he would get -- he would get that the individual that was the city gets for over fourteen years in the state. Supreme Court he county judge. Eight -- the judge. He tried Eros is very out in rumble the -- with money money money. And probably has worked it's worked for Ellis are these ships here for Dell outlet of guilt Arnold. Tell me bill to what degree I mean on the federal level certainly there are a lot of folks that -- The influence of money in politics are we seeing that on the judicial level leaping to -- certainly that George -- Pakistan well. Federal court judges are are appointed an entirely different systems so although they are typically party cats. By necessity of raising money is not part of what they have to go through in terms of the sentiment though the idea that money is corrupting the system. It's something it's a charge this level that the federal. Is it a charge that can be leveled at the local level to. In the case of these judges I can tell you that as a practitioner makes me feel uncomfortable when I get. Letters and postcards in the mail inviting -- to horrible cocktail parties at 250 bucks ahead to support a judge. And I I feel awkward when I appear before that judge. Whether or not -- -- I've gone to the cocktail party. So it would I -- they have the -- -- for me to go to that cocktail party but not for you. If you have to appear in front of that while all of you would never go to such report. John in Rochester things are Chiming in -- on the air now. Hey hey April you know bill I gotta say I I give -- that -- above. A little bar association's to a certain extent and starting with the American Bar Association -- the -- we. Organization and it. It doesn't support tort reform he carried two -- woman righteous and mineral county bar association. And probably your bar association. So I -- -- destruction there and I think. If you take this more I don't know the people's hands. My associate bill playing a power right now they qualify that judges before the election so the people know. If they're called Clair back all flights but. I really think there's a court involved with these bar association. And their what he. And I think if you go to this sort of look at what we have a New York court of appeal with Janet and what men. Meant a lot way. Yardage in and multiple charges and -- of New York State Court of Appeals are what we. Our judges then I just don't want it he would disintegrate there well what your spot. Well first of all I think the -- -- -- -- object to your calling him left wing and -- -- -- that I had had. A former Republican county attorney for many years absolutely. But you know but does that aside. -- -- -- You've got to admit it and let men is a last -- by judge. And John just sort it -- Is the chief judge I don't know -- -- language understanding that just in the interest of time job. John just in the interest of time I wanna make sure we we've got your point. You're saying that you feel on top of the best system. Is left that you as a voter should be able to counterbalance it and if it's moving more toward. Voting unless these conventions. You're getting a greater voice that I summarize Greg and Leo he will stipulate that Iran build our sacred time jump on. What I would say is that if everybody was. As informed and had formed opinions about the judiciary are about judicial candidates as you -- Tuesday. Then that might make the democratic selection process makes some more cents. But I doubt that that was not the way are included I don't think that -- unless you are in front of the judges in the courts working I don't think that most people -- a position. To evaluate the performance of a judge over the course of a fourteen year term. In any way that's meaningful. And -- bottom line name like the thirty seconds we have left here. You want things to stay the way they -- I would like to see -- merit selection system for. New York State Supreme Court justices are highest trial court rather than a system that. It amounts to. Of a black box nominating process that's rubber stamped by the electorate. Very -- -- -- sponsor exemption this was a blast thanks for having me I thought it would be inside is -- thought it was fun.