Stopping a Scalia Fan Running for Judge in Brooklyn

As the Democratic Primary in New York City draws near (Sept. 9th!) some more people are speaking out on the First Civil Court race in Brooklyn. I want to offer up the opinion of the Brooklyn Papers and Lambda Independent Democrats on Roger Adler and Devin Cohen (the two candidates running). Let me give one disclaimer: one of the candidates, Devin Cohen, is a friend of mine, so I am biased.

That said, most people seem deeply disturbed by Roger Adler's anti-gay stands, ties to the Conservative Party, ties to jailed former party boss, Clarence Norman, and his public admission that he openly participates in a pay to play political system. By contrast people seem to like Devin Cohen for his even temperment and honesty. From what I can tell, Devin Cohen has practically all the endorsements while Roger Adler has more money.

I have written about this race a fair amount on Daily Gotham, but mostly have not written much about elsewhere because it seems so local. And it is a Democratic Primary. But I have to say that it is an election with national implications. Marriage equality vs. anti-gay. An open admirer of Scalia's judicial philosophy vs. a true progressive Democrat. Pay to play vs. honesty. Grassroots vs. money.

The Brooklyn Paper has a pretty good rundown on both candidates. To quote:

Adler might not have been affiliated with a club like Cohen's reform-oriented Independent Neighborhood Democrats, but he was the lawyer for jailed former Democratic county boss Clarence Norman, who has been convicted of embezzling campaign funds and accused of extorting kickbacks from judicial candidates...

No wonder Cohen is talking up Adler's link to Norman.

"If you look at the grassroots reform clubs and reform-oriented politicians that endorse me, it's impossible to view that I'm the political hack in the race," Cohen told The Brooklyn Paper.

Cohen's bid for the 10-year judgeship is backed by many elected officials and neighborhood Democratic clubs -- a liability in Adler's eyes -- but a stamp of approval for Cohen.

"For me, Devin has more roots in the community," said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene). "I've known through his involvement in a number of community organizations. That's why I support him -- not because he's an `insider.'"

And Adler's claim to being "nonpolitical" can not be objectively propped up. The former Norman barrister has not only done legal work for some conservative causes, but he has also made thousands of dollars in donations to incumbents such as Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Carroll Gardens) and state Sen. Marty Connor (D-Brooklyn Heights) -- two politicians who endorsed Cohen.

Adler has also opened his checkbook to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) and gave the state Conservative Party about $10,000 in donations.

Adler says this makes him a true-blue independent.

"I gave to people that I thought were producing for Brooklyn or the state," Adler said.

This is only half of what Adler told me when I directly asked him about his Conservative Party, Clarence Norman, and Al D'Amato donations. He did mention that he donated to those he thought were the best people (does he really mean Clarence Norman was a good candidate or that Al D'Amato was better than Chuck Schumer??), but he also said to me in front of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (where I am a board member) that he played the political game where you contribute to those who help you out. Seems to me he really is taking some lessons from the Clarence Norman school of politics. Seems he only gave the Brooklyn Paper the least offensive of the answers he gave me.

The Brooklyn Paper also mentions the legal work Adler is best known for: his amicus brief for the Conservative Party opposing marriage equality. This issue is taken up in more detail by Lambda Independent Democrats who sent this email around tonight:

Civil Court Candidate Has Anti-Gay Record
Roger Adler authored Conservative Party opposition to marriage equality

Lambda Independent Democrats warned lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters and their allies that putting Roger Adler on the Civil Court bench would represent a step backward for civil rights.

Adler, a candidate for the 1st District Civil Court in Brooklyn wrote the Conservative Party amicus curiae opposing same sex marriage [note: PDF] and has also donated handsomely to the anti-gay party.

"Seeing an anti-marriage judge elected in Brooklyn in 2008 would be a catastrophe," said LID Co-President Terrance Knox. "Roger Adler is a hired gun for homophobes and corrupt elected officials."

In addition to his anti-gay advocacy work, Adler represented convicted party leader Clarence Norman.

"Brooklyn deserves better," said LID Co-President Dan Willson. "We don't need judges who believe entire portions of the population deserve second-class status."

"Roger Adler would be the Robert Bork of the Brooklyn Courts," said LID board member Ken Diamondstone. "Adler is a rigid social reactionary who would deny me and my partner of 33 years the rights most couples already have. Medical decisions, inheritance, social security benefits and over a thousand other rights are being denied to gay and lesbian couples because of judges and politicians who share Adler's views."

52nd Democratic District Leader and LID board member Alan Fleishman said "Roger Adler does not share the values of the Democratic voters in this district, based on his donations of tens of thousands of dollars to the Conservative and Republican parties in his previous attempt to be appointed to a judgeship. Mr. Adler's financial support for candidates like Rudy Giuliani for President and his work against marriage equality are more in line with George Bush and Dick Cheney then they are with Brooklyn voters."

I should note that Adler's similarity in philosophy with the likes of the Bush and Cheney, noted by Lambda, reminds me that a fellow IND member was particularly struck by Adler's statements of admirition for the judicial philosophies of right wing Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas. These statements of admiration for the judicial philosophy of the most right wing of Supreme Court justices was stated publicly at the same IND meeting where Adler said his political contributions were at least in part contributing to those he needed favors from.

I think this is a clear choice for Brooklyn. Adler, a supporter of the Conservative Party who admires Scalia and Thomas, donated to Giuliani for President and D'Amato for Senate, and donated to and did legal work for jailed party boss Clarence Norman, versus Cohen, endorsed by people as diverse as Bill de Blasio and Letitia James as well as by every reform Democratic club in Brooklyn. The choice will be made September 9th.

If you can help Devin win this one, I would be most greatful!

Tags: Brooklyn, Conservative Party, courts, Devin Cohen, Election 2008, judicial races, Marriage Equality, New York, NYC, Roger Adler (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

As a fellow Brooklynite...

Thanks for passing this along!

To be honest, the main local primary I was paying most attention to is Kevin Powell's, so this is good to know.

Oh yeah... Bed-Stuy, son!

by cornbreadprogressive 2008-09-03 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: As a fellow Brooklynite...

I have remained neutral on Powell for a couple of reasons, but I met him a couple of times and liked him. Very good speaker. I can't say much about Towns since I haven't met him...which would go along with some of Powell's themes in the primary, wouldn't it?

Devin's district may not reach to your area. I know a corner of the 10th CD overlaps with the 1st Civil Court district, and both Towns and Powell like Devin, but I am not sure how big the overlap is.

by mole333 2008-09-04 03:08AM | 0 recs

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