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Ed Cooke

Monticello Attorney Will Assist In Screening Judges

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 6, 2007 — Few things rankle Ed Cooke more than injustice.
And now he has the extraordinary opportunity to bring that sense of fairness to the very halls of justice.
The 42-year Monticello attorney – son of beloved Judge Lawrence Cooke – has been appointed to the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission for the Third Judicial District.
That mouthful of an organization is actually a groundbreaking new way to handle the screening of candidates running for judgeships across the state.
Initiated in part by Monticello native and NYS Chief Judge Judith Kaye, the commission will determine whether or not such candidates are qualified for Supreme Court, County Court, Surrogate’s Court and Family Court.
Through documents, references and personal interviews, the commission will evaluate judge candidates based on professional ability, character, independence, integrity, reputation for fairness, lack of bias, and temperament.
“Public confidence in the judiciary rests upon the assurance of well-qualified judicial candidates,” said Judge Kaye in a press release. “This is an important step toward promoting informed voter participation in judicial elections and increasing public trust in our judicial system.”
The first meeting of the Third Judicial District’s seven members will commence April 16, and it will mark a substantial change from the traditional process.
“There were various screenings by bar associations,” Cooke explained. “Oftentimes, it became very political… There were a lot of times there may have been injustices.”
While he admitted politics can never be (nor should be) fully removed from the elections system, Cooke sees his role as one of depoliticizing the screening process.
“The fact that there’s an independent body looking at candidates is a big step forward,” he said.
Each portion of the commission will include an appointee from every county within the particular district. In the case of the Third Judicial District, the seven appointees will represent the counties of Sullivan, Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Schoharie, Albany and Rensselaer.
“Half of them aren’t lawyers,” Cooke related.
One is a doctor, he said, another a retired judge, and so on.
Cooke, of course, is the Sullivan County representative and was asked to serve by Presiding Justice Anthony Cardona.
“Appointees to these commissions represent both the legal profession and the public at large and are community members within the districts they serve,” said NYS Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman. “They will base their selections not only on careful assessment of candidates’ potential to be effective public servants on the bench, but also help open the candidate-designation process to a broader pool of potential candidates.
“These commissions represent one of the best methods available for improving our current judicial elective system,” he concluded.
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