The New York State Senate today passed legislation, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R - Staten Island), to create the Thirteenth Judicial District consisting of Richmond County. Currently, Staten Island is part of New York State’s Second Judicial District, comprised of both Richmond County (Staten Island) and Kings County (Brooklyn).
Under current law, judicial nominations for State Supreme Court are determined at Judicial Conventions. Delegates to these conventions are elected in a process which reflects the county’s population. This selection process has been found unconstitutional by the United States District Court in the case of Lopez-Torres v. New York State Board of Elections. It was determined that one county, or political party in a judicial district, by virtue of its population size, would receive a monopoly of power in this nomination process.
The State Constitution requires a county to have 1 elected Supreme Court Justice per 50,000 residents. Richmond County, with a population of 451,373, should have at least 9 elected Justices, and Kings County, with a population of 2,479,923, should have at least 49 elected Justices. Currently, Kings County already has 48 elected Justices. As the fourth fastest-growing county in the State, Staten Island deserves its own separate and independent Judicial District.
The 2000 census data reinforced this argument by revealing that the population of Richmond County increased by 71,176 and the population of Kings County expanded by 164,622. These statistics clearly indicate that the population growth incurred will allow Kings County to continue to dominate in the selection of Justices to sit on the State’s Supreme Court. Under the current system, Staten Islanders do not have equal footing in the election of jurists for and in the County of Richmond.
Senator Lanza said "The unfair distribution of authority to determine justices, along with the extra strain on the system, can only be rectified by creating a 13th Judicial District comprised solely of Staten Island. Without this much needed reform, Staten Island will continue to be ignored in the process for selection of justices to the State's Supreme Court."
"I have been in discussion with the Assembly leadership to persuade them of the importance of getting this passed into law," Senator Lanza concluded.