After Report on Nepotism, State Courts Change Hiring Practices

The state court system put changes in its hiring practices into effect on Tuesday, a day after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct reported that the protocol at an appellate court promoted a culture of nepotism.

Beginning immediately, the state’s chief administrative judge, A. Gail Prudenti,, said, job openings in the state’s four appellate divisions will be publicly advertised. Judge Prudenti also said that applicants for all vacancies will be vetted by hiring panels, court employees will be required to disqualify themselves from the hiring process when relatives apply for jobs, and court employees will not be allowed to supervise relatives or their spouses’ relatives.

On Monday, the commission issued a report in the case of Luis A. Gonzalez, the top judge in the appellate division that covers Manhattan and the Bronx, who had been accused of giving jobs to friends and relatives.

While the report cleared Justice Gonzalez of wrongdoing, it found that hiring at the court had mostly “been a closed process for decades,” one that “requires an acquaintance, friend, relative or some other connection to the court in order to know about and apply for an open position,” thereby diminishing “public confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the courts.”

The commission recommended the changes that were adopted. Similar safeguards were already in place in the rest of the court system, outside the appellate divisions, said David Bookstaver, a court spokesman.

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