Rowan Wilson was nominated by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday to serve as New York's chief judge, a selection made weeks after the Democratic-led state Senate rejected her first nominee for the post. 

If confirmed, Wilson will be the first Black chief judge in state history. 

Hochul also nominated attorney Caitlin Halligan to fill Wilson's spot as an associate judge on the state Court of Appeals, New York's top court as well as Joseph Zayas to serve as chief administrative judge of the court system. 

The double nomination was enabled by state lawmakers earlier this month approving a measure that accelerated the nomination process if Hochul were to select a judge from the Court of Appeals to become chief judge, circumventing the need to once again go through a nominating commission for a slate of candidates.  

"The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals not only leads the State's highest court, but is also responsible for managing the diverse and complex courts across the State. New Yorkers deserve a strong, effective, and thoughtful leader, and I am proud to nominate Judge Wilson as Chief Judge," Governor Hochul said. "Judge Wilson's sterling record of upholding justice and fairness makes him well-suited to lead the court at this critical time.

Wilson's nomination comes after Hochul's first nominee to lead the court, Hector LaSalle, was rejected by Democrats in the state Senate after progressive advocates and some labor unions raised concerns with his judicial record. LaSalle was initially rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate after a Republican-led lawsuit led Democrats to hold a full floor vote. 

Hochul's nomination may have an easier path to confirmation in the state Senate this time. Wilson was first confirmed to the Court of Appeals in 2017, giving him some experience with the nominating process in the chamber.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, a prominent critic of the LaSalle nomination, praised Wilson's selection. 

“I commend Governor Hochul for selecting Judge Rowan Wilson and Caitlin Halligan for appointments to the Court of Appeals. I am particularly excited about the prospect of Judge Wilson leading our state’s highest court as Chief Judge," Gianaris said. "He is exactly the type of person who can restore the integrity and reputation of the Court of Appeals after the damaging tenure of the previous administration. I look forward to hearing from these nominees and voting for their confirmations in the coming days."

Wilson was one of the Court of Appeals judges who dissented in last year's case that ultimately rejected legisaltive-drawn redistricting maps last year -- a development that angered Democrats nationally amid a tight race for control of the House of Representatives. The lines were eventually drawn by a court-appointed special master. 

A case challenging the U.S. House lines in New York is currently working its way through the court system and Hochul along with Attorney General Letitia James backed the effort in an amicus brief released last week.  

Peter Martin of the progressive Center for Community Alternatives who had led opposition to LaSalle also celebrated the announcement. 

"Since last summer, we have called for a nominee who has demonstrated a commitment to safeguarding the rights of New Yorkers and protecting the most vulnerable. As an Associate Judge on the Court of Appeals for the last six years, Judge Wilson has distinguished himself as a tireless champion of marginalized people," he said.

The chief judge post had been vacant since August when Janet DiFiore resigned. Hochul has wanted to get the court system back to full strength in the wake of the pandemic, which had created a backlog of cases. 

"Serving as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals would be the honor of my career, and I am humbled by this nomination from Governor Hochul," Wilson said. "Protecting the rights of New Yorkers is my top priority, and I look forward to working with Governor Hochul and our partners throughout the judiciary system to manage our courts and deliver justice."