The United States Supreme Court has come under political scrutiny after the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization removed the constitutional right to an abortion. Vin Bonventre, the Justice Robert H. Jackson distinguished professor of law at Albany Law School and editor of the New York Court Watcher Blog, told Capital Tonight that the duty to protect rights will fall to state courts like the New York State Court of Appeals.
New York’s highest court has some key differences compared to its federal counterpart, according to Bonventre. New York’s court has just seven judges compared to the nine justices that make up the federal court. New York’s judges serve until they turn 70, the mandatory retirement age, while federal justices have a lifetime term. Finally, New York’s court handles New York issues that don’t violate the federal constitution – that’s where the Supreme Court steps in.
Bonventre, who is a longtime opponent of New York’s mandatory retirement age, argues it is “moronic” and that a term limit rather than an age limit could better suit that need on the state and federal level. The current federal system, according to Bonventre, incentivizes presidents to appoint younger justices rather than more experienced candidates because a younger justice has the opportunity to serve for a longer term.
The current Court of Appeals has seven judges all nominated by either former Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Gov. Kathy Hochul. Bonventre says the Court has leaned “fairly conservative” despite all of the judges being nominated by Democratic governors. A strong block made up by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Judges Michael Garcia, Anthony Cannataro and Madeline Singas have been more pro-prosecution and pro-big business compared to the liberal minority of Judges Jenny Rivera, Rowan Wilson and Shirley Troutman who have been pro-rights of the defendant, according to Bonventre.