Gov. Kathy Hochul made it clear Wednesday she will continue to back Justice Hector LaSalle, her nominee to be the state's most powerful judge, through his Senate confirmation hearing to take place next week.
The governor again doubled down on her pick for chief judge to lead the state Court of Appeals, pushing back against concerns from senators on the Judiciary Committee tasked with rejecting or approving the nominee.
Several labor union leaders and progressive advocates argue a few of LaSalle's decisions permitting lawsuits that intimidated union leaders and a 2017 decision where he joined a ruling that deemed parts of the attorney general's probe of fraudulent medical clinics run by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center unconstitutional.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Monday said it would be easier if the governor would rescind her nomination and put up another candidate Democrats would agree on.
"Why would I remove him? He's an outstanding jurist," Hochul told reporters Wednesday. "He has a phenomenal record and we're just waiting for him to have the fair process play out as required by the Constitution."
LaSalle is a state Supreme Court justice presiding over the Second Department Appellate Division. He'd be the first Latino judge to head the state's highest court, but will face a battle. Several members of the Judiciary Committee have already said they will not confirm him. It's unclear how Republican senators will vote.
Senators on the Judiciary Committee will ask LaSalle questions for several hours during a confirmation hearing by mid-next week. The date and time have not been specified.
The state Constitution requires the Senate to confirm or deny the governor's nominee for chief judge. Committee members will decide to reject, or advance LaSalle's nomination to the Senate floor for a debate and vote by the full chamber.
"He'll have his hearing, recommendation to go to the floor or no recommendation — that's allowed," Hochul said. "Then we'll have a floor conversation. The process hasn't even begun to play out. I have no intention of withdrawing his name."
The state Business Council sent a letter to state senators Tuesday requesting they hold a fair, impartial and thoughtful hearing for LaSalle and seek due process.
"The rejection of a properly nominated candidate for political reasons based on mischaracterized former rulings would undermine the confidence of New Yorkers in the process of judicial selection and the integrity of the courts," according to a statement from the council.
If senators vote to reject LaSalle, it's unclear if Hochul will make her selection of another nominee a bargaining chip with legislative leaders during budget negotiations.