A Civil Court race pitting firebrand former Councilman Noach Dear against a lesser-known judge has been thrust into the spotlight by gay and lesbian activists because of Borough President Markowitz’s endorsement of Dear, who was rated as unqualified for the bench by the City Bar Association.
“Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and homophobic Noach Dear are in bed together,” read a mass mailing put out by the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a gay-and-lesbian political group.
The mailing cites Dear’s objection to a 1986 “gay rights” bill during his 18 (pre-term-limit) years in the City Council and urges voters to call or e-mail Markowitz’s office to “tell him that an anti-choice, homophobic bigot does not belong on the Civil Court.”
Dear is also backed by the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, in the race for the Civil Court seat against Karen Yellen. The Fifth District covers Dear’s stronghold of Borough Park, plus parts of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Windsor Terrace, Sunset Park, and the very southern edge of Park Slope
Markowitz, who has enjoyed the support of the gay and lesbian community for years, issued a less-than-ringing endorsement of Dear, choosing not to even name him in a statement put out by his office late Tuesday.
“I have a long record of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — including supporting gay marriage — and I would never support anyone who would disrespect the rights of gay people, which is why I demanded assurance that as a judge, this candidate (who by the way, lives in Brooklyn, while his opponent does not) would place equal treatment, respect for diversity, and reverence for human rights above all else.”
That answer did not satisfy Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles club.
“I think Marty has made a terrible mistake,” Roskoff said. “I don’t know what he was smoking. Endorsing Dear is unconscionable. It’s despicable. I can’t see him being able to qualify for the endorsement of a gay club after this.”
It’s not only gay activists who have the knives out for Dear. The New York City Bar rated Dear “not approved” based on “failure to affirmatively demonstrate that he possesses the requisite qualifications for the court for which he is a candidate.”
Yellen was rated “approved,” though no further explanation was given in either case.
Yellen, who lives in Manhattan, made headlines last year when she testified against then-party boss Clarence Norman and claimed that he ordered her to hire his cronies as campaign “consultants”
Out of fear, Yellen testified, she spent $12,000 for fliers she believed she didn’t need and gave $9,000 to a Norman pal who pocketed the cash and did “nothing,” prosecutors said.
Yellen’s testimony has earned her high marks from reformers.
“Karen Yellen’s testimony sent Clarence Norman to prison. She is owed a vote of thanks [from] all those committed to judicial reform,” wrote on blogger on Room Eight, a Web site devoted to New York City politics.
Meanwhile, Dear’s tenure in the Council — which includes angering blacks by traveling to South Africa on an Apartheid fact-finding tour sponsored by the whites-only Johannesburg City Council, and being sued by a group Sri Lankan Tamils who claimed he stole $170,000 from them — is drawing fire.
The Village Voice reported last month that when Dear ran for Congress, his campaign staff forged 47 sequentially numbered money orders in other people’s names to hide a donation of $40,000, which was then 20 times the legal limit.
No criminal charges were filed in that case, but Dear’s treasurer had to pay $45,000 in fines, the Voice reported.
“Those stories [about Dear] are telling it as it actually is,” said Yellen, who has served on various courts since 1993. “But most important, he has no experience on the bench, as opposed to my 15 years as a judge. Also, the records indicate that has never even practiced law. That makes him not qualified for this position.
“People are incensed that he is running,” Yellen added.
Dear did not return a call for comment.
The Democratic Primary for Civil Court is on Sept. 18. Go to http://www.vote.nyc.ny.us to find your polling place.