Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will host a conference Tuesday on New York State judicial reform, an issue he has targeted after dozens of Long Island judicial candidates have run in uncontested races on several major party lines.
The virtual conference will bring together former judges, elected officials and good government groups to discuss reforming the judicial selection process, promoting diversity on the bench, improving court access and fixing the criminal justice system.
It will also draw prominent speakers, including U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and keynote speaker Jeh Johnson, a former U.S. Homeland Security secretary who led a review of racism and bias in the state court system last year.
Johnson’s 100-page report recommended that courts embrace a zero-tolerance policy for racial bias, expand implicit bias training for judges and court personnel and address bias in the jury selection process.
Bellone has called for an overhaul of the judicial selection process and has railed against "fusion voting," the practice of allowing candidates to run on multiple major party lines. These "backroom deals" have frequently left voters with no choice on judges at the ballot box, he said.
"It is high time to bring our courts out of the shadow and identify areas to implement judicial reform," Bellone said in a statement.
Political party leaders said cross-endorsements put the best candidates from all political persuasions on the bench and ensure that one party doesn’t control the courts. The leaders also said in 2020 that all judicial candidates were found qualified by the county bar associations that year.