The chairmen of the Republican and Democratic committees in Nassau County have agreed to endorse nominees for the state Supreme Court, a practice critics deride as backroom dealings but which party leaders say is fair to both sides.
The two parties nominated Christopher McGrath of Hewlett Harbor, a Republican, and Democratic District Court Judge Gary Carlton of Valley Stream. With them running unopposed in the November 7 general election, both are expected to join the bench next year and replace retired Supreme Court justices Gary Noble and Jerome Murphy.
Justices serve for 14 years.
McGrath, 64, a personal injury attorney at the Garden City law firm of Sullivan, Babin, Block, McGrath, Covinas and Canavu, headed the transition team for Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman in 2021, after he defeated Democrat Laura Curran.
McGrath has contributed more than $25,000 to the Nassau County Republican Committee since 2020, according to state election board filings.
In 2016, McGrath ran unsuccessfully in the special and general elections to replace former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (Rockville Republican). He lost both races to Democrat Todd Kaminsky.
Carlton, 69, is a former deputy village attorney in Valley Stream and was elected to the Second District Court in 2019. He ran unsuccessfully for that position in 2017.
Carlton is a founding partner in the Rockville Center personal injury law firm Goldberg & Carlton. He received his law degree from Albany Law School at Union University in 1979.
State filings showed he contributed $5,000 to the Nassau County Democratic Committee in April.
Cross endorsements of judicial candidates occur frequently in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Candidates who carry the lines of both major parties are usually a lock on winning the seat, barring a surprise write-up or spoiling the minor party.
Critics say the practice leaves the public little choice in selecting judges. Party leaders say it is a way to make sure an equal number of Republican and Democratic candidates are elected to the bench.
Without mutual endorsements, “you end up with a very partisan system where justices are elected, based on the year they run, whether it’s a Democratic-leaning year or a Republican-leaning year,” said Guy Jacobs, the state’s governor and Nassau. Chairman of the Democratic Party.
Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo said in a statement that the commission is “delighted to nominate judicial candidates with the experience, qualifications, and commitment to justice that will ensure the continued service of justice in Nassau County.”
Carleton championed the cross-adoption process.
He added that judicial candidates are barred from campaigning, and “you can’t go into your opinions as to how legal cases are decided.”
“It really limits the audience in a different way than other candidates who can be thoroughly questioned about certain positions,” he said. “The Democrats and Republicans know me well.”
McGrath did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
With Scott Adler