New Efforts Promise to Improve Judicial Transparency in New York 

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By Melinda Kukaj

NEW YORK, NY – A nonprofit organization known as Scrutinize, devoted to judicial transparency, this week announced the launch of Judicial Profiles, “an online platform providing comprehensive profiles of New York judges.”

The initiative provides transparency on the decisions and impacts of the judiciary while also promoting better transparency and trust of the legal system, according to a statement by the group.

As stated in its statement, Scrutinize said that “informative, accessible, and comprehensive data is crucial to promoting transparency, democratic engagement, and oversight of the judiciary by the communities it serves.”

Scrutinize emphasizes the importance of this, arguing “these are not just buzzwords: in recent public campaigns that relied on Scrutinize’s data, New Yorkers have shown their desire and willingness to shape their state’s judiciary to reflect their values.”

The importance of this platform is highlighted, noting that, currently, New Yorkers have very limited access to information regarding judicial candidates and nominees.

The Scrutinize statement said, “Judicial Delegates, who are tasked with nominating Supreme Court Justices, describe a process involving minimal review of candidates’ merits and qualifications.”

Scrutinize adds that, although there certainly have been efforts to improve the Supreme Court nomination process, seeking more information from judicial candidates, the current process remains “opaque” and “political.”

Judicial Profiles, explained the group, will further advance the transparency of courts while simultaneously promoting public engagement with the judiciary by forming a concentrated platform that allows New Yorkers to find credible information about their judges.

Oded Oren, executive director of Scrutinize, said “our Judicial Profiles platform will provide invaluable insights into judicial behavior, highlighting patterns and impacts, and ensuring that New Yorkers have the information they need to shape their judiciary to reflect their values.”

The statement added “the platform currently includes profiles for 21 judges in New York City who are either elected and seeking a new term, or appointed by the New York City mayor and up for reappointment this year. Scrutinize will release profiles for all New York State judges, along with new data metrics, by next spring.”

The platform will illustrate “reductions of the judge’s sentences by appellate courts in the “interest of justice”; the judge’s total years on the bench and the start and end year of their current term; the number and rate of publication of the judge’s decisions; whether the judge is statistically more carceral than their colleagues in their pretrial detention determinations; decisions reversed on appeal and then reassigned to a different judge.”

Dana Rachlin, district leader and chair of the Kings County Democratic Party’s Judiciary Committee, said “my goal is to introduce transparency and objectivity into the judicial screening process, focusing solely on the candidates’ knowledge and application of the law. Quantifiable, data-driven reports on candidates will be incredibly helpful as we work to create a judicial selection process that reflects a fair and competent judiciary.”

David Siffert, a judicial delegate and vice president of Village Independent Democrats, stated that “recent reports by Scrutinize have made a dramatic change—giving clubs and delegates access to real data about candidates, without relying on the cherry-picked materials a candidate distributes.”

Siffert concluded, sating that “thanks to Scrutinize, community members like me are better able to make well-informed decisions about which candidates will make the best judges.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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