Friday, June 13, 2003
Text of Letter by Judge Peter D. Lichtman Informing Colleagues of His Candidacy for Assistant Presiding Judge
After much soul searching and discussions with many of you, I have decided to run for the office of Assistant Presiding Judge in the October 2004 election. I am concerned about the current atmosphere within our court, and what I perceive as a lack of respect accorded us considering the significant role we play in the justice system. Specifically, I have been greatly troubled by the addition of various supervisory and administrative positions now occupied by judges that have the effect of making communications more cumbersome, and have encouraged the treatment of judges as employees. Concomitant with the judicial managerial layer, we have become obsessively preoccupied and bogged down in statistics that not only affect the method and manner in which we interact with members of the bar, but also with each other. As immediate goals, I would undertake the task of improving our bench-bar relationship, and to return to the collegiality and camaraderie we once enjoyed with one another.
I believe that the most effective and dramatic method of improving our relationship with the bar and amongst ourselves would be to eliminate the importance placed on caseload statistics. While we, as a court, may have to keep records which track case flow, management and resolution for the AOC, this emphasis is counter-productive. There can be no dispute that the preoccupation with numbers drives case management, which in turn puts both the bench and bar on a collision course. Case management is a skill like any other and needs flexibility and innovation. I have presided over both fast track and complex litigation, and in my experience, success is the result of flexibility in case management and cooperation with counsel, not statistics. We must be ever mindful of the fact that we, as judges, are charged with assuring justice for the litigants. Strict adherence to numbers-crunching is not the manner in which to carry out our mandate. Instead, we should focus on our own strengths regarding case management. Some judges enjoy trials, while others prefer to preside over settlement conferences. Neither desire is right or wrong, or better or worse. However, reliance on statistics imposes artificial constraints on effective case management.
Due to the size of our court, the talent pool we have to draw from is quite extraordinary. My goal would be to maximize those resources, and solve many of our own problems from within. The job of assistant presiding judge and ultimately presiding judge is to listen, gather input and make informed decisions on the issues that confront us. The job is not one where broad rules are imposed based upon the problems of only a few. I feel that I am qualified to handle the job, and able to guide this court to a strong and self-determined era of innovation and leadership. I look forward to serving each of you.
I realize that my announcement for this post is early. In past years, there has been the perception that there is an “heir apparent” already selected, and that you have little choice in the selection process. My intent is to assure you this is not the case in this election.
Accordingly I ask for your support and welcome your ideas, comments and suggestions. Please feel free to contact me at any time and ask whatever questions you may have.
Very truly yours:
Peter D. Lichtman
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company