The Judge Who Said No

Brooklyn's Democratic Party Boss Punishes a Rebel

López Torres said her own efforts to obtain the party's backing for promotion to the higher court were fruitless. She said she had written several times to Norman and the party's screening panel but was never informed of her status. As a result, she was receptive when a group of party insurgents, led by former assemblyman Tony Genovesi and Congressman Ed Towns, approached her and asked to place her name before that year's judicial convention.

The convention normally considers only a single slate of candidates, submitted by the county leader, and the delegates usually unanimously endorse them. "It's a Soviet-style election," said Gary Tilzer, a veteran political consultant who is working on López Torres's campaign.

The rebel slate was soundly defeated, and, after the death of Genovesi in 1999, Towns and the other insurgents had what Norman calls a "rapprochement" and are currently allied with the leader. López Torres is the lone exception.

She said that two days before the convention, Norman called her in court. "He was very upset, insisting that I remove my name from the slate," she said. "He said if I didn't, the party would never forget it."

Norman denied it, saying he has a policy of never "talking politics" with judges. "Absolutely not, I never called her," he said. "With all due respect, even if I was disposed to call her on a political issue, common sense indicates I call her on her cell phone or at home. I am not going to have a political conversation with a judge in court."

Nor had he ever spoken to López Torres about her law secretary, he said. The party sends résumés of candidates to new judges, he said, but the selection is up to them. "I am going to say the lady lied," said Norman. "A bald-faced lie."

Assemblyman Lopez also heatedly denied ever promoting his daughter's candidacy to López Torres. "She is making that up," he said. Lopez said his daughter had won her employment as a law secretary as the result of "volunteer work" for the county organization.

Lopez said he been disappointed to learn that López Torres hadn't originally hired a Latino to work with her (her current aide is Hispanic). And he was also unhappy when she never conveyed sympathy to him after he was diagnosed with a severe illness several years ago. His irritation deepened when he read a letter in City Limits magazine by López Torres's husband, Matthew Chachere, criticizing him for endorsing Mayor Rudy Giuliani for re-election in 1997. Lopez, who is currently working hard for Sikowitz, said he found the letter infuriating. "Her husband wrote that I should be challenged for re-election. What am I supposed to say? Thank you, Margarita?"

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