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June 14, 2017

New York Law Journal

By: Jerry H. Goldfeder

In 1997 I supported a constitutional convention. The New York City Bar Association opposed it, vigorously objecting to a deeply flawed delegate selection process. Putting aside that issue at the time, I believed that New Yorkers would have a greater opportunity to effect government reform through a convention than by continuing to urge an unresponsive state legislature to enact meaningful change. Only Gov. Mario Cuomo and a handful of other respected leaders shared this view. Our position was soundly defeated at the polls.

Twenty years later, I have come to the opposite conclusion—that a constitutional convention under the very same delegate selection process that existed in 1997 would either fail to enact change or, worse, undermine if not eviscerate many existing constitutional protections. I no longer view the issue as one of "hope over fear." Instead, I am persuaded that the realities of the inherently flawed delegate procedures outweigh any hoped-for reform.

This year, the city bar supports a convention. Although it concedes that the delegate selection process, unchanged, still has "deficiencies," it pins its hopes for a successful convention on "[s]tatutory revisions to the delegate selection process [that] can be made [by Albany] this year [or next]."  There is absolutely no basis for this hope.


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