The information on this blog about the corruption in America's courts will disgust and frighten you and propel you into a world of racketeering, greed, larceny, malicious prosecution, and outrageous disdain for due process, the Rule of Law, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Professional Responsibility Standards, Rules and Statutes. This is the Unified Court System of New York State. You will be a victim unless you speak up and protest. by Betsy Combier
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Jockeying For Judgeships
Jennifer Thompson, a Conservative Republican who lost her bid for Huntington Town Board in 2015
When longtime Conservative Marian Tinari ran for Huntington
District Court last fall, she didn’t just have the backing of her party. She
was also endorsed by the Republicans. And the Democrats. And the Independence
and Reform parties.
All that harmony was orchestrated by the man who is no doubt her
biggest supporter — her husband, Frank Tinari, the new leader of the Suffolk
The multiparty support for Marian Tinari was so formidable that
no one bothered to oppose her. In getting the cross-endorsements, she was not
unusual in Suffolk County, where one in four judicial candidates has been
backed by both Republicans and Democrats in the past 10 years, all victors in
races that were won before they started.
But the sheer number of parties supporting her, despite their
stark conflicts in judicial philosophy, as well as her husband’s involvement,
make her election a vivid example not only of how completely party leaders
dominate Long Island elections, but how that dominance reaches into the courts.
That troubles legal scholars who have long criticized the
state’s judicial selection process. “It’s unseemly, it’s unbecoming; but it’s
legal and business as usual for New York judgeships,” said James Sample, a
Hofstra University law professor who has studied judicial selection.
In Nassau, where judicial races are more competitive, about 10
percent of the judicial candidates in the past 10 years were cross-endorsed by
the major parties. But election records show that cross- endorsements have
increased in both counties in recent years: From 1996 through 2005, just one
judicial candidate in Nassau and 31 in Suffolk were cross-endorsed by the major
parties. In the past 10 years, 25 candidates in Nassau and 63 in Suffolk were
cross-endorsed by the major parties.
The reason for that is clear, leaders say. With
cross-endorsements almost always guaranteeing election, candidates don’t have
to spend money on political advertising and leaders don’t have to enlist party volunteers
to get out the vote.
“It’s much easier,” said Toni Tepe, Huntington Republican
State law makes it illegal to give a party line in exchange for
something of value, but trading party lines without an explicit quid pro quo is
not, legal experts said.
Even within these bounds, though, the practice is one of the
most questionable examples of the political horse trading that has become
routine on Long Island. It can become as involved as draft-day maneuvering in
the NFL, with deals extending over years and involving parties as disparate as
the Conservatives and the organized-labor-oriented Working Families. In
Suffolk, cross-endorsements have included top office holders, such as District
Attorney Thomas Spota and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, but their effect on the
judicial elections is particularly pronounced.
This year, the political parties have already agreed on
cross-endorsements of all four of Suffolk’s higher court judgeships — one
County and three Family — up in November.
“It flies in the face of everything we believe when we walk into
the voting booth.”– Jennifer Thompson
While leaders of minor parties have defended cross-endorsements
as just about their only way of electing qualified loyalists to the bench, some
law professors and critics of New York’s unusual system of judicial selection
say that comes at too high a price: It leaves the public with little real
choice in selecting judges who make critical decisions affecting businesses,
families and the potential for serious charges of criminal wrongdoing. Because
judicial candidates are barred from expressing their political views or
campaigning, endorsement by a single party can provide a strong indication to
voters about where a candidate stands, while cross-endorsements offer a
“It flies in the face of everything we believe when we walk into
the voting booth,” said Jennifer Thompson, a conservative Republican who lost
her first bid for Huntington Town Board last year after cross-party
negotiations involving Tinari’s judgeship and the town board seats.
“When they see somebody’s name on a party line, that represents
something to them on a philosophical basis,” she said. “The average voter just
Just how judges get on the bench on Long Island is a question
federal investigators have posed to Frank Tinari’s predecessor, Edward Walsh,
who was convicted March 31 on federal charges of wage theft and wire fraud.
Although Walsh was prosecuted for doing political work — and gambling and
golfing — while he was supposed to be doing his job as a deputy county sheriff,
his lawyers maintain that the real reason federal attorneys pursued a case against
him was in part his influence over the selection of judges.
As leader of the largest county Conservative Party in the state,
Walsh’s backing could make the critical difference in a judicial election,
bringing in up to 30 percent of the vote. Walsh’s lawyer, William Wexler, said
in an interview that he had no information to give prosecutors.
Frank Tinari succeeded Walsh as leader of the Suffolk
Conservative Party, which bars felons from the office. An attorney who has been
involved with the party for 30 years, Tinari makes no apologies for using his
political influence to help his wife get a judgeship.
“Marian has been an active Conservative since 1988 and has
worked for the party,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think she should be
penalized if she’s qualified to be a judge by the mere fact that she’s married
Before becoming a judge, Marian Tinari worked as a court
attorney referee, law clerk and an assistant district attorney. The Suffolk Bar
Association found her qualified.
Asked about her cross-endorsements, Marian Tinari released a
statement through a court spokeswoman: “I was very humbled and appreciative
when all political parties supported my candidacy for Suffolk County District
New York is one of just seven states that allow fusion voting,
which permits candidates to run on multiple party lines. The practice is a
reform that was introduced decades ago to give minor parties more of a voice
and to break the stranglehold of Manhattan’s Tammany Hall machine. But over
time, leaders of both minor and major parties have traded party lines with
little regard for political philosophy, and the major parties have occasionally
come together to block the influence of smaller parties.
“It would be like a card game.”– John Cochrane
“It would be like a card game,” said former Suffolk Republican
leader John Cochrane.
When Nassau District Court Judge Anna Anzalone ran for state
Supreme Court in 2014, the Nassau County Bar Association failed to find her
qualified — a rare determination for a sitting judge. Nonetheless, both the
Nassau Republicans and Democrats endorsed her.
Although she is a Republican, in endorsing her GOP leader Joseph
Mondello violated his long-standing agreement not to back candidates the bar
association failed to approve. At the time, Republican officials called the
association’s decision partisan. Mondello said that while he would have liked
bar association approval, “if . . . games are going to be played, you have to
adjust your sails.”
John McEntee, who was then bar association president, defended
the screening committee’s rating. In a letter to Newsday at the time, he
pointed out that the committee was bipartisan and wrote that it found “by an
overwhelming margin” that Anzalone “lacked the qualifications and experience
necessary” for Supreme Court. Under association rules, the committee’s specific
findings are kept confidential.
After her election, she asked that the Suffolk Bar Association
review her qualifications because she was seeking to extend her term beyond the
mandatory retirement age of 70. In May 2015, that association found her
Anzalone did not respond to calls for comment.
Despite the debate over her qualifications, Anzalone had
something that would appeal to any party leader: the support of the New York
State Laborers Political Action Committee, which was controlled by her husband,
George Truicko. The PAC, which has contributed to the Nassau GOP consistently
over the years, gave handsomely to the party in 2014, with $24,050 coming
before her nomination and $12,500 right after her election.
“… if you come to me and say you want to run for an office, I
would say to you, can you raise a certain amount of money?”– Jay Jacobs
The effect of the cross-endorsement was powerful. Anzalone was
one of six Supreme Court candidates cross-endorsed by the major parties. All
six were elected to the bench. Three others, including two who ran on a single
party line, were shut out.
The ability to raise money for a party, as Anzalone’s husband
had done, is an important consideration when selecting judicial candidates,
party leaders say.
“There is an expectation in every single office if you come to
me and say you want to run for an office, I would say to you, can you raise a
certain amount of money?” said Nassau Democratic leader Jay Jacobs.
In 2014, every single Nassau Democratic candidate for higher
court — Supreme, County and Family — generated at least $50,000 in donations
for the party’s county committee. And four District Court candidates each
raised at least $17,500 for the county party, according to a Newsday review of
hundreds of campaign filings.
Under state judicial ethics rules, contributions made by
judicial candidates must be used for specific campaign expenses. Contributions
made in a lump sum, unconnected to expenses, particularly before a candidate is
nominated, are prohibited to prevent the appearance of buying a nomination. A
judge violating the rules could be subject to discipline.
“In New York, many lawyers are desperate to become judges and
will do almost anything for the party leaders, who can, in turn, make that
dream their judicial reality.”– James Sample
Jacobs said that the contributions went primarily to a
coordinated judicial campaign, which he said was legal. “We’re straight up
about it,” he said. “Once those judges reach the bench, it’s hands-off from the
Although records don’t show the same level of contributions in
2015, Jacobs said he might solicit them this year if there are contested
“In New York, many lawyers are desperate to become judges and
will do almost anything for the party leaders, who can, in turn, make that
dream their judicial reality,” Hofstra’s Sample said.
“And the problem with that is that legal acumen has almost
nothing to do with who becomes a judge.”
Former Republican leader Cochrane agreed. “It is not because
they are particularly brilliant or have credentials,” he said, making the point
that success in law school or the courts is far from a primary consideration.
“You don’t go to school, you don’t earn marks; you earn it through the
The political discussions that laid the groundwork for Marian
Tinari’s seat on the 3rd District Court, which covers cases in the Town of
Huntington, provide a window into the making of a judge. It all began in
January 2014, with various accounts portraying negotiations involving five
party leaders, four judgeships, two town board seats, a county executive and a
vote by the county legislature.
Making the extent of the maneuverings all the more improbable
was that, as much as the judgeship may have meant to Tinari, it meant
relatively little to the political leaders, other than her husband. A District
Court judgeship comes with a $156,200 salary and a six-year term and can be a
steppingstone to higher courts. But it has no patronage jobs and little court
work to hand out. It is a lower court that primarily handles misdemeanors and
lesser offenses, as well as landlord-tenant disputes.
“You don’t want to put an idiot in just because they’re a
lawyer,” said Huntington Democratic leader Mary Collins, who rued the fact that
when someone becomes a judge, the party loses a valuable worker. “Once a
person’s on the bench, they’re lost because they’re precluded from doing
anything for the party.”
Nonetheless, a judgeship can be a way to reward a loyal party
volunteer or can be a useful chit in cross-party deal making.
Against this background, in early 2014, Frank Tinari, who is
also the Huntington Conservative leader, approached Tepe, the town Republican
leader. She said he proposed a full slate of District Court cross-endorsements
that included the incumbents, Republican Steve Hackeling and Conservative Paul
Hensley, as well as Democrat James Matthews for the seat that the Conservative
John Andrew Kay was retiring from. Matthews is Tinari’s former law partner.
Journey to becoming a
Marian Tinari was not part of that package, but rumors had begun
to circulate that another District Court judgeship would open up, something
that would emerge in a telling way months down the line.
Frank Tinari’s proposition ran into problems because Tepe assumed
a negotiating position that other political leaders take: Once a judgeship is
held by a person from a particular party, it stays with that party.
Tepe said she reminded Tinari of an earlier deal they made: She
had agreed to back Kay in 2010, as long as the seat returned to the Republicans
once he retired. Tepe said she wanted that judgeship back.
Tinari denied that he had agreed to that, she said. Their talks
Tinari, whose party seldom wins a political race on its own but
can draw thousands of votes to a judicial candidate, turned to Collins, the
town Democratic leader, despite their parties’ differences in philosophy. They
quickly cut an unusual deal: Conservatives would back two Democrats for
District Court in exchange for Democrats backing one Conservative in 2014 and
another Conservative in 2015, Collins said.
It was agile maneuvering — in fact, too agile for some
Conservatives. The two Democrats the Conservatives agreed to back, Matthews and
Patricia Grant Flynn, also accepted the line of the left-leaning Working
Families Party, something staunchly opposed by the state Conservative Party
“I do have a problem with the Conservative Party participating
in cross-endorsements with the Working Families Party,” state Conservative
chairman Michael Long said in an interview. “They represent a philosophy that
is alien to everything the Conservative Party believes.”
Tinari said the Democrats got the Working Families line after
the Conservative endorsement.
For Matthews and Flynn, the Conservative line proved to be a key
cross-endorsement in the November election. It provided the margin of victory
for Matthews and significantly boosted Flynn.
Until now, Marian Tinari’s name had not surfaced officially in
connection with a judgeship, but shortly after the election the long-rumored
judicial retirement finally emerged. District Court Judge G. Ann Spelman
announced she was leaving the bench.
That’s when the commitment by the Democrats to endorse an
unnamed candidate of the Conservative Party’s choosing crystallized into their
endorsement of Marian Tinari.
Collins said that under the deal she struck with Tinari that won
Conservative endorsement for Democrats Matthews and Flynn, the Democrats were
committed to endorsing a Conservative for the next District Court opening. The
deal was made easier, she said, because no Democratic lawyers were interested
in the judgeship. Marian Tinari was, and she became the candidate.
Frank Tinari said Spelman’s retirement came without warning but
that he was happy to propose his wife as her replacement. “Did I help to try
and put the nomination together? Yes, as soon as we found out that it became
available by Gigi Spelman stepping down,” he said.
Both Tepe and Collins, however, said there had been rumors of
Spelman’s retirement for months. Spelman and her husband, Randolph, who served
on the town Conservative executive committee with Tinari, did not return calls
Because Spelman retired before her term was completed, officials
had to appoint someone to take her seat on the bench until an election for a
full term took place the following November. Collins gave Suffolk Democratic
leader Richard Schaffer just one name for that seat: not that of a Democrat,
but Marian Tinari.
Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone forwarded her name to
the county legislature, which in March 2015 unanimously approved her.
She would still have to stand for election, but the appointment
gave her the advantage of incumbency.
In politics, though, a simple advantage is not always enough.
There was one more deal waiting to be made.
In 2015, judgeships were far removed from the concern of Huntington
Democrats, who were focused on retaining control of the five-person town board.
They held a 4-1 edge. Two seats were up, and four candidates were running for
While every party has an executive committee, longtime observers
of Long Island politics have noted how for decades strong leaders have
influenced party positions and endorsements.
Frank Petrone, the Democratic Huntington supervisor, asked Frank
Tinari to back both Democratic candidates. Tepe, who hoped to make Republican
inroads, wanted him to endorse a Republican and a friendly incumbent, who is a
member of the Independence Party.
The reason for that, according to Petrone, was obvious: “I think
he needed to keep everyone happy.”
Tinari wanted both the Republicans and Democrats to back his
wife in her run for District Court, Petrone said, and while the Democrats had
supported her appointment there was no guarantee they would endorse her
“An appointment is one thing; to run for a seat is another,”
Tepe recalled, “Tinari said to me, ‘The Conservatives are
willing to endorse one person. Choose who you want.’”
Tinari said he did not recall telling her she could pick whom
she wanted, something that would have put a political card on the table without
allowing the Conservative executive committee to evaluate candidates on their
Whatever the circumstances, Tepe faced a tough decision.
Incumbent Gene Cook had been a friend to Republicans on the board and was popular
with voters, even though he was a member of the Independence Party. Jennifer
Thompson, who serves on the Northport School Board, was a newcomer to
Huntington town politics, but Tepe liked her a lot.
But when Thompson appeared before a Conservative screening
committee, she said she got a cool reception. Tinari asked most of the
questions and took an adversarial approach, she remembered, recalling that she
“got the distinct impression that I was not welcome.”
Tinari said the Conservative executive committee did not find
her qualified. “We didn’t think that she was a good candidate,” he said.
In the end, Tepe went with Cook, the incumbent. The Republicans
also endorsed Marian Tinari for the judgeship. Tepe had known and liked Marian
Tinari for years and came from the same side of the political spectrum. “There
basically was no reason for us not to be supportive at this point,” Tepe said.
In what was barely a cherry on the cake, Tinari also received
the endorsements of two much smaller parties, the Reform and Independence.
Huntington Independence Party leader Kenneth Bayne said there
was nothing complicated about why his party endorsed Marian Tinari. He, like a
spokesman for the Reform Party, said she was the only one who asked for the
endorsement and that she was qualified.
Spokesmen for the Independence and Reform Parties said that
Tinari was the only candidate who sought their backing for District Court and
they found her qualified.
That would seem to be the end of a long political story, but it
wasn’t. One of the charms of cross-endorsements is that withholding one can
have as much impact as bestowing one, something Thompson — who didn’t get the
Conservative Party nod — found out the hard way.
Sometime around July, Tepe learned that the Conservatives were
running their own candidate for the other Town Board seat, a move that could
only hurt Thompson by siphoning votes from her. And that’s exactly what
The Conservatives’ Town Board candidate, Michael Helfer, an
attorney who had no listed campaign committee, got 2,827 votes — the critical
margin of difference. Her opponent, Democratic incumbent Susan Berland, beat
Thompson by just 1,212 votes.
“Had I had the Conservative line,” Thompson said, “I would have
won my race.”
Tinari, running on five party lines with no opposition, swept to
easy victory and a full six-year term with 24,468 votes. Thanks to
cross-endorsements, the longtime Conservative drew the plurality of them —
11,090 — on the line of her party’s longtime antagonist: the Democratic Party.
This is just an outrageous hit piece by Newsday. Judge Marian Tinari is an outstanding and super-qualified jurist. She has been a devoted and tireless public servant for decades who as a former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney was the head of the Bias Crimes Unit. When she was the Principal Law Clerk in the Suffolk County Surrogate's Court, she was a passionate advocate for the rights of widows and orphans. This is the type of person the public deserves as a judge. Did Newsday have a lengthy investigation into how President Bill Clinton got Hillary her Democratic nomination for the US Senate in 2000 to run against Long Island's own Rick Lazio? Absolutely NOT!!! Once again the liberal/progressive bias of Newsday rears its ugly head in an attempt to destroy an individual such as Judge Tinari who just happens to be a conservative. M.E. Wilensky