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- The New York Times weighed in on the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney in favor of Tiffany Cabán. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren also endorsed Tiffany Cabán, and now have said that they are both open to decriminalizing sex work even though they each voted for SESTA/FOSTA in 2018. Rep. Gregory Meeks, Joe Crowley’s successor as Queens Democratic Party Chair and a Melinda Katz surrogate, is unhappy.
- Council Member Rory Lancman, who initially entered the Queens DA race positioning himself as the most progressive candidate before Cabán entered, has dropped out of the race and endorsed Melinda Katz. A Lancman staffer resigned in protest of the Katz endorsement.
- Jamaal Bowman, a public school principal, has announced a Justice Democrats-supported challenge to 30-year incumbent Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th Congressional District, which covers Southern Westchester and the Northern Bronx.
- The Green Light Bill, which grants driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in New York, was finally passed and signed into law, over the objections of suburban Democrats. The law is a major victory for immigrant rights.
- A deal was also reached on the Climate & Communities Protection Act, which would make New York the sixth state to set a goal of 100% clean energy. The deal also requires union wages for state energy projects.
- Governor Cuomo announced a plan to devote 500 cops to arrests for farebeating.
- NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza responded to a lawsuit filed by three ex-employees, accusing him of discriminating against white people.
- The Mayor has tapped Gregory Russ to be the new head of NYCHA. Russ was previously CEO of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, where he promoted private management of public housing.
- Jacobin released two extensive pieces highlighting the victories of tenant organizers in New York and the path forward for more reform.
- A long-stalled proposal to convert existing freight and passenger rail tracks in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx into a proper outer borough subway line may receive a boost from an Assembly bill that requires the MTA to study its feasibility.
- Working past the 2019 Legislative Session deadline, the State Legislature killed bills that would ban solitary confinement and enact automatic voter registration, infuriating advocates. However, Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to “dramatically reduce” the use of solitary by bypassing legislation and making changes administratively. Advocates are calling the deal an “appalling act of cowardice.”
IN DEPTH: Judicial Elections, Part II: Meet the Candidates
Read last week’s in depth overview of how judicial elections work here.
Although 18 judicial seats are up for election this year, only five races are contested across the five boroughs. Four of these are for seats on the New York City Civil Court, which primarily handles lawsuits for amounts under $25,000 as well as landlord-tenant cases. Judges elected to civil court are often reassigned to criminal or family court, so the judges chosen for this court could end up sitting on almost any type of case. The remaining judicial seat is on the Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court, which hears cases about wills and the distribution of estates as well as adoptions.
Civil Court - 4th District (East Side from Stuyvesant Town to Murray Hill)
Both candidates for this seat, Lynne M. Fischman Uniman and E. Grace Park, were approved by the New York City Bar Association. Each has a host of endorsements from local elected officials, including Representative Carolyn Maloney, former mayor David Dinkins, and Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright for Fischman Uniman and Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein, Richard Gottfried, and Yuh-Line Niou and City Councilmembers Carlina Rivera and Mark Levine for Park. Fischman Uniman is an attorney in private practice, while Park is a Legal Aid lawyer who represents low-income children.
Kings County Surrogate’s Court (countywide)
Incumbent Margarita Lopez Torres, who beat the Brooklyn Democratic machine in prior elections, is now up for re-election with the party’s support. She’s also supported by a host of other liberal elected officials and groups, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, State Senator Julia Salazar, and the Working Families Party. Lopez Torres has been criticized for allowing a lawyer with strong machine ties to rake in millions of dollars for his work in Surrogate’s Court, and her two opponents, Meredith Jones and Elena Baron, have hit Lopez Torres for her machine support and the fact that she’ll reach mandatory retirement age in two years, but there’s no indication they’d be better picks. Jones is supported by former Brooklyn Democratic party boss Clarence Norman and his allies, and Baron, who was formerly a judge in criminal court, has a horrible reputation among local public defenders for setting draconian bail. Baron is also the only one of the three who was rated Not Approved by the New York City Bar Association. Lopez Torres has raised over $42,000, more than Baron and Jones combined, with almost half her total coming from estate lawyers who practice in Surrogate’s Court. None of the three candidates are likely to clean up the mess that is Surrogate’s Court.
Civil Court (countywide)
The two candidates for this race are D. Bernadette Neckles, who immigrated from Grenada to Brooklyn after high school and has worked in the court system for most of her career, and Edward King, an attorney in private practice. Neckles, who previously lost a civil court race in 2017, has been endorsed by a number of elected officials and local Democratic clubs, while King has not publicized any endorsements. Both candidates support bail reform (King notes that “You don’t want to punish [people] before they’ve had their day in court”), but King has argued that drug dealers need to be treated with “a firm fist.” He’s also gone seeking support from a local lawyer’s group dominated by landlord attorneys. Both candidates were approved by the New York City and Brooklyn Bar Associations. Neckles is the favorite, but neither has raised much money.
Civil Court - 6th District (large parts of central Brooklyn surrounding Prospect Park)
The four candidates in this race make it a crowded field by the standards of judicial races. Only two, Caroline Piela Cohen and Chinyelu Udoh, were rated Approved by the New York City Bar Association, and they’re also the only two candidates who have raised any money. Udoh, a former public defender who now serves as law clerk to a judge in Manhattan, lists radical lawyers Bill Kunstler and Ron Kuby as mentors. Cohen is a lawyer at Crumiller P.C., a “feminist litigation firm” that focuses on gender and pregnancy discrimination lawsuits; in her previous job she defended the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) against discrimination lawsuits. Her campaign has raised by far the most money, including over $79,000 from herself and her husband and another $40,000 from family. Both candidates have been endorsed by neighborhood Democratic clubs and a few elected officials. Of the other two candidates, Tehilah Berman is also self-funding and boasts an endorsement from notable Trump supporter Alan Dershowitz. Alice Nicholson is a former court attorney with varied experience who currently defends people against foreclosures. She has not reported raising any money or receiving any endorsements.
Civil Court (countywide)
The two candidates are Lumarie Maldonado Cruz and Wyatt N. Gibbons. Gibbons, a private criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, won the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party, the local political machine formerly run by Joe Crowley, and he’s well connected in the borough; his wife is a criminal court judge. Maldonado Cruz, an attorney who works for the state court system, says she was inspired to run by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory last year and moved from the Bronx to Queens to run for this seat. She’s the first person in decades to run against the machine’s pick in a Queens judicial primary, and she’s supported by many of the same activists who are supporting Tiffany Cabán for district attorney. Maldonado Cruz came to New York from Puerto Rico at age 16 and has spoken about her experience struggling through poverty as a single mother. Maldonado Cruz has been rated Not Approved by the New York City Bar Association, drawing a comparison with Cabán’s rejection by the Queens Bar Association.