After Supporter Backlash, Asian-American Justice to Be Considered for Nomination

The New York County Democratic Committee has reportedly reversed its decision late last month not to nominate an Asian-American state judge for reelection this fall, according to the New York Post.

Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, the first Asian-American woman elected to New York State Supreme Court in 2002, will now likely be added onto the November ballot, the Post reported Monday, assuming she receives the official nod at the committee’s Sept. 22 judicial convention.

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) executive director Margaret Fung said she welcomed the news, but cautioned that Ling-Cohan, viewed widely as a champion of gay rights, still needs to be nominated at the convention and then elected by a majority of the delegates.

“I’m glad that the Democratic County Committee won’t block Justice Ling-Cohan’s nomination, despite the screening panel’s decision, because she’s clearly qualified to serve another term on the New York Supreme Court,” Fung told NBC News in an email.

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The Post first reported on Aug. 31 that the committee’s Independent Judicial Screening Panel determined Ling-Cohan was "lazy" and "slow" in dealing with her caseload, and that she was "disorganized, takes a lot of time off" and was "late with decisions."

Those accusations sent more than 100 of Ling-Cohan’s supporters — among them elected officials and members of bar associations, including the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York — to the steps of New York City Hall last week to defend the appellate judge and her record.

Dozens of supporters of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, including New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin (center), call for the New York City Democratic Committee to reconsider nominating Ling-Cohan for judgeship on this November's election ballot. Chris Fuchs / NBC News

Curtis Arluck, chairman of the party’s judicial committee, told the Post Sunday that the 22-member screening panel did not follow the rules for incumbent justices, who he said should get deference. Exceptions, however, include “egregious ethical or professional conduct” that has been documented, the paper reported.

“The panel did not apply that standard,” Arluck said, according to The Post. “There was no obvious issue. There was nothing even non-egregious.”

The New York County Democratic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon. A woman who answered the phone at Ling-Cohan’s chambers told NBC News Ling-Cohan could not immediately comment because she’s a sitting judge.

Among the cases Ling-Cohan has heard was Hernandez v. Robles, in which she ruled in 2005 that barring same-sex couples from marrying violated New York's constitution. That decision was overturned on appeal, but New York later passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011, which was signed into law the same year.

At the Sept. 6 City Hall rally, some speakers suggested that the screening panel’s rejection of Ling-Cohan was colored by politics and tainted by conflicts of interest.

"The panel was stacked with lawyers from the real estate and corporate sectors who were determined to remove her from the bench because of her fairness to tenants and consumers," Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a progressive LGBT political club, said in a statement.

As the New York County Democratic Committee prepares for its judicial convention next week, some are calling for an overhaul of the screening process, which decides who can run under the party in Manhattan for State Supreme Court.

“I believe this ‘independent’ judicial screening process needs to be reformed, so that it cannot be manipulated by certain factions or political cliques to prevent qualified candidates getting access to the ballot,” AALDEF’s Fung said.

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