Saturday, January 28, 2023

Legislative panel rejects Hochul’s choice for New York chief justice

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Cathy Hochul’s nominee to lead the state’s Supreme Court was rejected by a state Senate panel Wednesday, following weeks of criticism from activists, progressives and union officials about the judge’s record. A high-profile setback for ,

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted not to send Hector LaSalle’s appeals court nomination to the full Senate after more than four hours of questioning. Most of Hochul’s fellow Democrats voted against LaSalle.

Sen. Brad Hoylman-Siegal, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said “the nominee was thoughtful, engaged and responsive.” “But I think there were some questions left.”

The governor nominated LaSalle just before Christmas, in hopes that he would become the first Latino to lead the seven-member high court and oversee New York’s judicial system. The state Senate routinely approves such nominees, but Hochul’s choice ran into trouble after a vocal coalition of opponents said La Salle’s court record was too conservative.

Democratic senators at the hearing said they were concerned that the judge’s record showed he supported the prosecutors’ position on civil rights and questioned him about individual decisions they considered unfair to workers and his support of reproductive rights. Did not do Critics included several Senate Democrats, sparking a conflict within the party as state spending and policy negotiations heat up.

Hochul called the Senate hearings unfair and said he believed the state’s constitution required action by the full Senate, not just the committee.

“Justice LaSalle demonstrated why she is the right person for the position, given her extensive experience, judicial temperament and integrity,” Hochul said in a prepared statement.

LaSalle presented himself as the product of humble origins, a believer in women’s rights and unions, and a conscientious judge.

LaSalle told the senators, “For each of these positions, I have my lived experiences and my experiences as a person of color growing up in a working-class community.”

LaSalle currently serves as the presiding judge of the Second Department, where he directs the nation’s largest state appellate court with a budget of approximately $69 million. He was appointed to that position in 2021 by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo.

His detractors have focused on mid-level appellate court opinions dealing mostly with technical legal issues rather than larger social issues.

La Salle told the senators that he based his decisions on case law. Senators supporting him accused critics of choosing particular cases to make it sound like he was a staunch conservative.

“Reading your rulings and especially listening to your opening statement, I thought for a moment I was in the wrong room. He doesn’t look like a rabid right-wing conservative,” said Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza.

Hoylman-Siegal said that given the increasingly conservative US Supreme Court, concerns about LaSalle’s record needed to be aired more fully.

“If some people think we’re holding this hearing to a higher standard, it’s because we have to,” Hoylman-Siegal said at the hearing. “The stakes are too high.”

Nation World News Desk
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