To the Editor of the New York Law Journal:
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) joins the Fund for Modern Courts in opposing the New York City Bar Association’s categorical rejection of any use of former judges as independent monitors of any court system. And we strongly reject City Bar’s criticism of the appointment of Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick as the current independent monitor of diversity in the court system.
While we fully recognize that the appointment of certain former judges as monitors of the court system could be problematic, we see no reason to reject all former judges from such a monitoring role. To the contrary, a former judge’s knowledge of the court system and its operation could facilitate monitoring of
the courts. And particular former judges such as Judge Ciparick command such respect that they help generate public trust and confidence in the monitoring process. Ironically it is City Bar’s criticism that could undermine public confidence in the monitoring process.
City Bar has identified no basis for criticizing the appointment of Judge Ciparick. City Bar cites no deficiency in her work. It rejects her appointment solely based on the fact that she served as a Court of Appeals judge more than a decade ago. (Notably we understand that in her role as independent monitor, Judge Ciparick has no oversight over her former Court, the Court of Appeals.)
As City Bar recognizes but disregards, Judge Ciparick, the first Latina appointed to the Court of Appeals, is well known for her sterling character and integrity. NYCLA has given Judge Ciparick its highest award, the William Nelson Cromwell Award. She has received awards for her strong diversity record. NYCLA and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association have given her the Ida B. Wells Award, which recognizes distinguished service in combating discrimination and advocating human rights. She has received many other awards, too numerous to list.
We note that the City Bar’s statement regarding Judge Ciparick is contained in a larger report assessing the court’s efforts in its Equal Justice Initiatives, detailing recommendations for the state courts to continue working to eliminate racial bias. We applaud that overall report and agree with almost all of its recommendations.
However, we maintain that Judge Ciparick’s exemplary record as a champion for diversity and as a pillar of our bar demonstrates why the City Bar’s condemnation of any use of former judges as monitors of the court system is misguided. We welcome, rather than condemn, Judge Ciparick’s appointment as special monitor.