Court Rules Against Progressives Attempt to Hijack Brooklyn Dem Party

Kings County Democratic Party Committee (KCDC) Chair Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn. Photo from official assembly website.

A much written about progressives-led legal and media battle over how the Brooklyn Democratic Party appointed county committee members during the height of the CIVID-19 pandemic in December 2020 was unceremoniously thrown out of court earlier this month.

The Kings County Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Brooklyn Democratic Party that attempted to unjustly unseat thousands of County Committee members and recall five amendments to the Party Rules that allowed for greater democratic participation.

The ruling came down Oct. 1.

In Judge Edgar J. Walker’s ruling, in response to seven dismissed causes of action by the plaintiffs, the justice said, “the 13 officers elected at the December 23, 2020 organizational meeting would be inequitably affected were the court to invalidate the meeting and direct that a new meeting take place.” Furthermore, “plaintiffs have failed to name necessary parties to this action and timely joinder of these individuals is not possible given the expiration of the statute of limitations.”

“Our goal is to ensure that everyone has a voice and that our diverse County Committee members and Party Officers are elected in a fair, expedient and transparent process. We are pleased that the court agrees with us,”  said Party Chair Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn. “A handful of geographically homogenous reformers who did not reflect the voice of Brooklyn, in an attempted power grab, tried to co-opt our democratic freedom. Now we can continue to run an organization that is transparent and progressive.”

The case stems from the Kings County Democratic County Committee 2020 organizational meeting concluded on December 24. Operating under Robert’s Rules of Order newly revised 12th Edition parliamentary procedure, the party voted for a new slate of officers, adopted five rule amendments and filled over 2,000 vacancies in its membership, including non-binary County Committee Members for the first time in history.

The 2020 organizational meeting was the first virtual organizational meeting in party history, and despite early delays due to a technical modeling error, it was a success. 

The plaintiffs were members of the reform New Kings Democratic club – who serve on the Brooklyn Democratic Party County Committee yet have frequently clashed with the Party higher-ups. The group that filed the lawsuit claimed Democratic leaders had engaged in an illegal power play in a vie to pack and control the committee.

The lawsuit attempted to nullify the election of this diverse slate of new officers and county committee members. It also attempted to revoke an amendment to the Rules which allows non-binary individuals to serve on the County Committee. 

Other Democratic Parties followed suit in the “power grab” with criticism of this historic amendment.  Interestingly enough, the Lamba Independent Democrats (LID) – the “political voice of Brooklyn’s LGBTQ community” – criticized the new gender nonbinary rule. “It is insulting to [transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary] people to use an opportunity to advance gender equality as a way to gain power,” said LID President Jared Arader. 

The amendment to the Party Rules that was under attack also allowed the Party to create at-large County Committee positions in each Assembly District. In the past, new members were appointed at organizational meetings and were precluded from participation in those meetings and the discussion about substantive party rule changes and officers.

“I am certainly pleased, but not surprised, that the great care that the Executive Committee’s leadership took in following the letter of the Election Law, and applicable precedent has been validated by the Court,” said Frank Carone, attorney for the Kings County Democratic Party.

Bichotte Hermelyn noted that the amendments were made during the pandemic whereupon both former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued executive orders limiting in-person public meetings. This resulted in a rather lengthy and difficult Zoom meeting in which dozens of County Committee members talked over one another.

“We appreciate the court’s careful consideration of the matter at hand. The Kings County Executive Committee, under the extraordinary conditions created by the pandemic, held a legal and orderly meeting of the County Committee to ensure the party can do its work for the current two-year period,” said Bichotte Hermelyn. 

“Let’s debate the issues within the proper fora and unite to elect Democrats for the benefit of Brooklyn, this city and the country,” she added.

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