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« Editorial - Judicial Process Is Bad But A Republican On Democrat Line Is No Answer | Main | Op Ed - Israel's Unwavering Friends In America »
Thursday
Sep062018

Op-Ed Republican Running A Democratic Primary Is Hardly A Teaching Moment

By Elaine Turley

Surrogate Court candidate and Republican Tara Scully is asking Democrats to vote for her in the Democratic primary and is telling Democrats that she hopes to run on the Democratic and Republican Party lines to teach the Democratic Party not to make deals for cross endorsements.  Ms. Scully apparently objected to the candidate chosen by the Democratic and Conservative Parties to run for Suffolk County Surrogate because she agreed with Newsday that judicial candidates being endorsed by more than one political party deprives voters of a choice of candidates.  

If Tara Scully wins the Democratic Party primary she will run on the Democratic and Republican Party lines – thus depriving voters of the choice for Surrogate Court Judge she has said she is running to preserve.

Tara Scully herself accepted the cross endorsements of the Independence Party and the Reform Party when she ran for District Court Judge in 2015 and if she had received the Conservative Party endorsement she would not have lost her bid by a mere 173 votes.  Voters could vote for Ms. Scully on any of three party lines in 2015 and for her opponent on any of two party lines.  It seems that voters do have a choice for judge even with cross endorsements – but they did not choose Tara Scully.

Ms. Scully told Newsday that her plan and motivation for running is to change the New York law that provides for elected party delegates to select Supreme Court judges to a law that provides for electing judges in primary elections.  But Ms. Scully has posted on her website an article from the newspaper that endorsed her acknowledging that she has no power to make this change as judge since only the New York legislature can change this process.  Tara Scully speaking of her plan to “change the way we select judges in this state” and “to change the political climate” in the county gives voters the false impression that her being elected Surrogate Court Judge will allow her to implement her plan when she must in fact work in the legislature to do so.  But Ms. Scully is not campaigning to be elected to the legislature where she can make that change and she never has.

Tara Scully, an attorney, does not mention on her website that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld New York’s method for choosing Supreme Court judges in a decision that opines that those complaining of this method “complain not of the state law, but of the voters’ (and their elected delegates’) preference for the choices of their party leadership.”  New York State Bd. Of Elections v. Lopez Torres, 552 U.S. 196(2008).  The Court notes that the “New York Legislature remain opposed to the primary (as a means of selecting judicial candidates), for the same reason their predecessors abolished it 86 years ago; because it leaves judicial selection to voters uninformed about judicial qualifications, and places a high premium upon the ability to raise money.”  The potential for large sums of money that must be raised to wage primary campaigns corrupting the judicial system disturbs not only the U.S. Supreme Court, but also at least one judicial selection task force in New York that recommends against this system of selecting judicial candidates. The Judicial Task Force of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in December 2006 noted, “The need to raise large sums of money in order to compete independently and effectively for a nomination for Supreme Court Justice is profoundly disconcerting. …The primary targets of those fundraising efforts are the attorneys and law firms that appear or could appear before them.  The specter of sitting judges actively and aggressively soliciting large quantities of money for those who will or may appear before them is acid that corrodes public confidence in the independence and integrity of the State judiciary.”  Of course another concern for those attorneys who might appear before a judge waging an aggressive primary campaign is that opposing such candidate could be held against them in the future.

Ms. Scully’s website consists of multiple pages of Newsday editorials railing against the Democratic Party, political party leaders, and cross endorsement of judicial candidates which have been upheld and supported by the U.S. Supreme Court and the NY legislature.  The postings make political attacks against judicial candidates, not because the candidates are unqualified, but because of the men to whom they are married and the party leaders who selected them as candidates.  One would believe from Ms. Scully’s website that she is actually running against Democratic Party chairman Rich Schaffer and the spouses of qualified women who have served honorably in the judiciary and who are respected by the legal community of Suffolk County. 

Ms. Scully’s website includes in bold print, “Tara A. Scully’s candidacy would launch a wrecking ball at the plans of Democratic Party county leader Rich Schaffer….” and continues, “I am proud to step forward to offer voters an alternative to the political deal-making that has made it almost impossible for independent qualified candidates to become judges in Suffolk County.”

Tara Scully’s campaign for Surrogate Court Judge is a prime example of why courts and legal analysts have opined that judicial nominations should be made by party conventions or appointments rather than primary elections.  A judicial campaign is not the proper forum for aggressive attacks or for legislative advocacy.  Ms. Scully should know better.  

Ms. Turley is an attorney who lives in Smithtown. She is the former chairperson of the Smithtown Democratic Committee. 

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