Senator Andrew Lanza (R - Staten Island) introduced legislation today that would 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 the current law, judicial nominations for State Supreme Court are determined at Judicial Nominating Conventions of individual political parties. The number of delegates from each party and county corresponds to the population of that county. This selection process has been found unconstitutional by United States District Court Judge John Gleeson in the case of Lopez-Torres v. New York State Board of Elections. The current structure allows one county, or political party, in a judicial district to receive, by virtue of its population size, a monopoly of power in this nomination process which is the case when Kings and Richmond Counties are examined.
Under the State Constitution, which 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 from the county. Kings County with a population of 2,479,923 should have at least 49 elected Justices. But as noted above, Kings County already has 48 Justices elected from Kings County, hence this issue is of less concern to them. 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 strikingly unfair distribution of authority to determine justices, combined with the extra strain on the system, can only be rectified by separating Staten Island from the 2nd Judicial District and creating a 13th Judicial District comprised solely of Staten Island. Without this much needed reform, Staten Island will continue to be ignored in this undemocratic process for selection of justices to the State's Supreme Court."