On Thursday January 18, 2007 Senator Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn)Co-Chaired the second of a series of state-wide public policy forums titled, “Public Forum: A Lasting Blueprint For Judicial Diversity.” The series, inspired by the Democratic Conference’s concern with the lack of diversity among judges throughout New York, was a resounding success. Under the leadership of Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, and with the participation of 16 experts in the field offering insightful testimony, a wealth of information was heard and recorded. This will prove useful in drafting legislation to increase the appointment of women and minorities to the bench statewide. Along with Senator Diane Savino (D-Brooklyn, Staten Island), Senator Dilan Co-Chaired the forum and led a panel of Democratic Senators representing NYC and Albany.
Senator Dilan, a member of the judiciary committee and one of only four Latino representatives in the New York State Senate, said, “The selection of minority and women judges ensures that the judicial branch represents the diversity and range of life experiences of the individuals and the communities they serve.
“These forums offer a platform for the exchange of ideas and the expression of invaluable insight from those who have devoted their lives and careers to the exercise of justice and the interpretation and application of the law.”
Senator Dilan said, “The diversity of the speakers and perspectives we heard today mirrors the wide range of opinions we hope to see informing our judicial branch in greater numbers state wide.”
Experts from a range of fields and walks of life, offered testimony before a panel of Senators, including John D. Feerick, recent Chair of the Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections and current Chair of Law in Public Service at Fordham University; Leonard M. Baynes, Professor of Law at St. John’s University and Director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development and the Honorable Ariel Belen, Kings County Supreme Court Justice and Vice Chair of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission on Minorities and many others.
Each speaker presented testimony focused on different aspects of the complex equation that are needed to increase judicial diversity. However, some reoccurring issues and themes ran throughout, including the debate over the method for the selection of judges, election versus appointment, that would best serve to advance diversity within the judiciary; the importance of a minority and woman rich “pipeline” of candidates that could potentially ascend to the bench; and the necessity for judicial pay raises in order to attract the most qualified candidates.
Senator Dilan said, “The selection of minority and women judges is an essential component to strengthening public confidence in the judicial system. In doing so we increase independent thought and ensure that New Yorkers receive a ‘fair shake’ if they happen to come before the bench.”
Senator Dilan has posted testimonies and synopses from this and the first Public Forum on Judicial Diversity that took place on December 4, 2006 in Albany, on his website - www.mmdilan.com.