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Letter: Voters, not party leaders, should select state judges

Voters, not party leaders, should select state judges

The law; equity; what is fair. As a third-year law student at the University at Buffalo, these are the things that come to mind when I think of the word judge. In school we are conditioned to believe that the courtroom is a place where politics and favoritism take a back seat to the law and the facts. However, in a state where judges are hand-selected by a small minority of party leaders, it appears that roles have been reversed.

Many states, in fact 26 to be exact, elect judges in state court. However, New York has a truly unique system for electing Supreme Court justices and this year’s “race” in the 8th Judicial District is a perfect example of its glaring flaw. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, instead of lobbying for the five best Democratic candidates, chose to seek out a guaranteed spot on the bench for personal friend Dennis Ward. Ward, commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections until recently, is the only candidate to not have been rated by the County Bar Association. Essentially both parties have selected four out of the five judges for us.

When local party leaders, such as Zellner, are able to exercise this much power over judicial elections, it is time to start asking ourselves one simple question: Are these so-called “elections” elections at all?

Luke Kalamas

Amherst