02/05/2013 09:32 am ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

One More Koch Story

One of Mayor Koch's greatest successes was putting an end to a Tammany Hall patronage system that rewarded its loyal supporters with judgeships whether or not they were judicially competent. Instead he created a merit system that screened all candidates for the judiciary, chose those whom they thought best, and sent them up to him for confirmation. By and large, he accepted their advice and the New York City court system became one of the best in the country.

But, there were exceptions and every once in a while, one of the exceptions became a superstar. I will name no names so that I protect my sources and denigrate no one. Occasionally, the Mayor suggested a candidate and the panel then interviewed him or her. Following one particular interview, the chairman of the panel informed the Mayor that the candidate was highly competent legally, but had one major fault -- she still referred to African-Americans as "jungle bunnies." Mayor Koch replied "Tell her not to say that anymore, and make her a judge." The chairman did as he was told, and watched her blossom into legal stardom. Fourteen years later, she left the bench for another position where she attained fame and fortune -- enormous fortune. She still has a pretty tough mouth, but I don't know anyone who's ever heard her say "jungle bunnies" again.