In the world of New York and the law, there is really only one story in today’s paper: Crusading former attorney general Eliot Spitzer being sworn in as Governor, with vows to reform the state and improve the troubling ethical issues that he sees in Albany. And to pick better judges, (a subject overlooked by most of the media).
In making his reforms immediately by executive orders, he stopped government staffers from using state-owned cars, computers or other property for their personal business. This was the issue that brought down Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Spitzer also prohibited state officials from starring in taxpayer-paid advertisements. This was a favorite activity of outgoing Gov. George Pataki that effectively acted as free advertising for him.
Spitzer also, thankfully, set up new procedures to ensure those seeking state judgeships are qualified. A copy of his executive order with respect to new judicial screening committees can be found here. It includes folks from the judiciary and the attorney general’s office, and from both majority and minority political parties.
The screening committees seem designed to find judges based more on core competence than political ideology. And that would be a very good thing.
[Addendum: On January 3rd, the New York Law Journal did a major front page story on judges Gov. Pataki elevated to appellate posts and their lack of diversity, which I posted about here.]