Nearly a month after he was rejected by the New York state Senate Judiciary Committee, Hector LaSalle failed to garner enough votes in a full floor vote to be confirmed as the next chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, an unprecedented rejection for a governor’s nominee to lead the state's highest court.
The 39-20 defeat on Wednesday is a victory for progressive Democrats and a setback for Gov. Kathy Hochul, and ends a two-month long political standoff between the governor and the Legislature over her nominee.
In a statement, Gov. Hochul said the vote "was not a vote on the merits of Justice LaSalle, who is an overwhelmingly qualified and talented jurist."
"Now that the full Senate has taken a vote, I will work toward making a new nomination," Hochul continued. "I remain committed to selecting a qualified candidate to lead the court and deliver justice. That is what New Yorkers deserve."
LaSalle was rejected by the Judiciary Committee in January by a single vote -- with Senate leaders saying the nomination had failed. But Senate Republicans and Gov. Hochul have insisted that the full Senate should still vote on LaSalle's nomination.
Republicans took Democrats to court on the issue, with Judge Thomas Whelan of Suffolk County Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Friday.
Rather, the Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday afternoon to advance LaSalle’s nomination to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said afterward that the vote on the LaSalle nomination was meant to put the matter to rest and curtail legal challenge, though Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said the lawsuit on the nomination will continue.
Some Democrats in the Senate have called for changing the trajectory of the top court in New York, arguing issues like criminal justice and workers' rights have veered too far to the right in recent years at the Court of Appeals. Many members considered LaSalle too conservative.
A judicial candidate nominated by a governor had never been rejected by lawmakers in the years since the process was changed more than 40 years ago.