Assemblymembers Push For New Judicial District in Richmond County

Separate district will provide parity, representation for Staten Island
June 22, 2007

The Assembly gave final legislative approval Friday to a bill creating an independent judicial district in Richmond County, according to Assemblyman Michael J. Cusick (D-Mid-Island), Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore).

Cusick said New York’s 13th Judicial District will consist entirely of Richmond County, giving Staten Island its own separate and independent judicial district. Currently, Staten Island shares a judicial district with Brooklyn, Kings County.

“Creating this separate district will provide some parity and give Staten Island its rightful representation within the city,” said Cusick, who authored the legislation (A.2688-B). “As the fastest growing borough in New York City, Staten Island is shedding the dubious image of ‘the forgotten borough.’”

Hyer-Spencer said a Staten Island-only district would give voters a chance to elect their own judges instead of losing representation to nominees from Brooklyn, which currently has 44 out of the 48 justices in the 2nd Judicial District.

“Under the current structure, one county in a district can easily receive, by virtue of its population, a monopoly of nominating power,” Hyer-Spencer said. “This is the scenario that exists in the 2nd Judicial District, but based on its size, at least seven of the 48 justices should be from Staten Island instead of just four.”

Last year, a federal judge agreed, ruling that the judicial selection process across the state was unconstitutional and did not address the disenfranchisement faced by Staten Island.

Titone said this argument is reinforced by the 2000 census data, which revealed that while the population of Staten Island increased by 71,176, Brooklyn expanded by 164,622, indicating that if left unchanged, the population growth in Brooklyn will allow Kings County to continue its domination over Richmond County – even though Staten Island grew at a faster rate (18.78 percent) than Brooklyn (7.15 percent).

“This strikingly unfair judicial balance can only be fixed by separating Staten Island from the 2nd Judicial District and creating a 13th Judicial District comprised solely of Staten Island,” said Titone, who along with Hyer-Spencer is a member of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.

The bill has already passed the Senate and will be delivered to the governor for his signature.