Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call with reporters Monday said he will move quickly to fill multiple vacancies on the state Court of Appeals in the coming weeks.
Nominations to the state's highest court are largely considered pro forma events and often receive swift confirmation in the state Senate. But the vacancies and nominating process come as Democrats in the state Senate have called for Cuomo's resignation amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.
The Court of Appeals is entirely composed of Cuomo's appointees due to the timing of retirements during his decade-long tenure in the governor's office. The Court of Appeals would preside over any impeachment trial of Cuomo in the state Senate.
Cuomo on Monday did not mention any of the controversies he faces with state lawmakers or the impeachment investigation now underway in the state Assembly. Instead, Cuomo signaled he wants to forge ahead with a post-budget agenda that is largely outside of the Legislature's grasp.
But at the same time, the state's top court needs to have judges in placed to get work done, he said.
"I hope the Senate moves quickly. I'm going to move quickly," Cuomo said of filling the vacancies. "The Court of Appeals has to function. It is, in essence, the Supreme Court of the United States."
Judge Paul Feinman, the state's first openly gay jurist on the Court of Appeals, died last month soon after retiring from the court. Judge Leslie Stein is set to retire in June.
Cuomo on Monday pledged to appoint someone who fits the mold of Feinman's support for "respect and rights."
"I would like to see the court continue that tradition," he said. "I don't have a litmus test for any vacancy."
Last week, the commission to fill judicial vacancies sent Cuomo a list of recommended judges for the Court of Appeals seat. Among the all-woman slate of recommendations was Judge Ellen Biben, who has worked for Cuomo during his time as attorney general and in the governor's office.