Greenpointers waiting in line to vote in November 2016. Photo: Julia Moak

Editor’s Note: Tomorrow, Thursday September 13th is our state’s Primary Election day. We will be voting for candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Civil Court Judge. As this Brooklyn Daily Eagle article put it, “For the average voter, picking a judge can often be the hardest decision on the ballot as there is often a lack of information available about candidates as compared to races for executives and legislators.” Greenpoint resident and op-ed contributor Nathan Windsor became frustrated after attempting to find out more information about the judges on the ballot.

In Kings County Brooklyn, according to Eli Cohen at The judiciary committee of NYC Bar Association, out of the 4 judges for Civil Court, Loren Bailey-Schiffman, and Ingrid Joseph were approved and qualified to serve as judges. Saul Cohen and Sheryl Orwel were not.

Most Orwellian of all, this Bar Association “cannot comment on what is or is not considered in this qualification.”

How is a registered voter supposed to judge the judges? Or even the Delegates to the Judicial Convention? What are the qualifications of these delegates?


After a non-answer from the Bar Association, I called a string of governmental agencies who also had zero information for me on these judges voting records.

I spoke to Fina Lessey at the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center (888–600–5232) and she said, “I don’t have that info for you, you’ll have to call communications.” There was no one at that communications center who could answer any questions. Apparently, that center is “supposed to issue a pamphlet later in the year” on the candidates’ records. I asked them why would that pamphlet be useful after the election? They had no answer.

This Ethics Center shows judicial candidates a video an hour and 45 minutes long on “ethics” and then uses a mirror to check for breathing, and then issues a certificate to them. I asked them if they ever did not issue an ethics certificate to a candidate, Ms. Lessey said no.

Ms. Lessey then directed me to speak to Lucien Chalsen (212–809–0566), director of communication for the office of Court Administration, who was also not available for a call.

Want to know why our representative democracy is failing? Low primary turnout because the current environment is not bad enough for most people to care, and a byzantine maze of governmental Orwellian nonsense that prevents voters from finding out basic information on the people who are in charge of our civil court system.

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  1. Thank you for writing this. I used WNYC/Gothamist’s voting guide to know what seats/candidates were up for election. It only listed governor, luitenant governor, state senator for my district, and attorney general. So I had no clue about the state assembly district (which for my district, 53, ended up not mattering since one candidate didn’t really campaign), city civil court, female district leader, and maybe even one more category that I had to leave blank since my polling place was inside a school with cell phone hammers preventing me from doing last-minute research at my booth. This was frustrating since I tried my best to be an informed voter for these primaries. You’re right – maybe this is why so many people don’t vote – because even when you try, things are so confusing and can make you feel like you’re wasting your vote. What can be done about this?

  2. Thanks for this post and for highlighting this point of frustration. It takes digging to find a handful of lines about judicial candidates on the web, after which you’re left with the choice of accepting the official recommendation or throwing darts at a board.

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