The commission charged with selecting candidates to fill the role of chief judge in New York released its list of seven potential nominees for Gov. Kathy Hochul to select from on Friday, weeks after her prior nominee was rejected by the state Senate.
Hochul must still nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy created last year when Chief Judge Janet DiFiore resigned. Her first nominee made in December, Justice Hector LaSalle, was rejected by the Democratic-led state Senate amid opposition from labor unions and progressive advocates.
The new list of candidates includes a mix of prior selections as well as current members of the court:
- Acting Chief Judge Anthony Cannataro
- Appellate Division, third department, Presiding Justice Elizabeth Garry
- attorney in private practice Caitlin Halligan
- Legal Aid Society attorney-in-charge Corey Stoughton
- Court of Appeals Associate Judge Shirley Troutman
- Appellate Division, fourth department, President Justice Gerald Whalen
- Court of Appeals Associate Judge Rowan Wilson
“I am gratified at the extraordinary quality and diverse backgrounds of the applicants received by the Commission," said commissioner chairman E. Leo Milonas. "That so many exceptional candidates were motivated to apply demonstrates the remarkable strength and depth of the legal profession in the State of New York.”
The rejection of LaSalle came after labor unions objected to his support for prior rulings on issues impacting labor. LaSalle, who would have been the first Latino chief judge, defended his judicial record and argued it had been taken out of context.
LaSalle's nomination was initially turned down by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans in the state Senate filed a suit challenging the decision, and in a bid to make the case moot, Democrats held a full vote on LaSalle on the floor of the Senate and formally rejected his nomination.
"After the chaos and dysfunction over the failed nomination of Justice LaSalle, it is critically important that a new chief justice nominee is advanced by the governor quickly and an open and fair process toward a full Senate confirmation begins immediately," Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said.
Hochul has said she was disappointed in the outcome, but has said she wants a chief judge in place who can lead the court and oversee its administration as the judiciary deals with a pandemic-induced backlog.
The candidates are also being released by the commission amid the ongoing state budget process. Hochul has said the pending nomination and budget talks will be kept separate.