New information has emerged since I last reported (March 22 post) that two Bronx justices might well still have a shot at an appointment to the First Department, despite reports from judges and other sources last October that neither of them had cleared Governor Andrew Cuomo’s screening committee.
Since the March 22 post, sources are saying that one of the Bronx judges, Justice Mark Friedlander, was found qualified when the governor’s screening panel convened last month, making him eligible to be appointed by Gov. Cuomo to one of three vacancies in the mid-level appeals court.
New information regarding the other Bronx judge, Justice John A. Barone, is more equivocal, but one judge reports a sense in the Bronx courthouse that both justices were approved by the committee during its deliberations last month. A well-placed source also reports that Bronx Justice Darcel Clark was found eligible for the Governor’s consideration. Justice Clark was said to have applied in response to the latest of three published notices seeking applicants for the First Department vacancies.
In the March 22 post, I reported that in December the governor’s office had solicited additional applicants for the First Department, which hears appeals from courts in Manhattan and the Bronx. The deadline for filing applications set in an earlier notice had been Sept. 30.
While the impact of the reopening was unclear, I noted that there were reports that the 11-member screening panel would not require those who had previously applied to do so again. I also reported that letters of support had been written for Justice Barone.
In my latest round of reporting, I was told for the first time that the Governor’s office has stated that the committee had “never taken a vote” prior to its March meetings. The source of that information, however, noted that in October leaks had led to the circulation of the names of about a half-dozen judges who had been approved, as well as the two who had not. Referring to letters of support written for the Bronx judges, the source said, that was “what the hullabaloo was all about.”
Additionally, since the March 22 posting, Robert H. Wolfe, the chairman of the Bronx Bar Association’s judiciary committee, has said, in response to my inquiry, that he had written a letter last fall on behalf of the group to the governor’s office. The letter questioned why Justices Barone and Friedlander were not found qualified for appointment this time around, he said, when several years ago a prior screening panel had found them fit for the Governor’s nod.
I have also discovered that that there was a third, and earlier, notice in the New York Law Journal referring to the First Department openings. The earliest notice was published approximately a year ago, on April 6, 2011, seeking applicants for two vacancies on the Manhattan-headquartered court. The next notice was published on September 1, seeking applications for an “Additional Justice” in the First Department. The advertised position presumably referred to the vacancy created by the departure in May of Justice James M. McGuire, who resigned to become a partner at Dechert. The third notice, seeking yet more applicants, was published on December 22.
The governor’s office has not responded to my requests for comment.