Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday stood by her nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle to lead the state Court of Appeals as a growing number of labor unions and senators who will vote on his confirmation come out against her decision.
LaSalle, who has issued more than 5,000 decisions throughout his career, serves as the presiding justice over the Appellate Division's Second Department. He'd become the first Latino and person of color to lead the state's highest court if confirmed.
But several leaders in the state's most prominent unions are calling on senators to vote to reject LaSalle's nomination, citing concerns of a handful of his past decisions permitting lawsuits that intimidated union leaders and a 2017 decision where he joined a ruling that deemed parts of the attorney general's probe of fraudulent medical clinics run by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center unconstitutional.
“Justice LaSalle’s anti-union and anti-worker record makes him an unacceptable choice to be New York’s Chief Judge," 32BJ SEIU President Manny Pastreich said in a statement Friday. "New York must be a bulwark against the extreme Supreme Court’s attacks on our basic rights — not an extension of them. Unfortunately, Justice LaSalle’s record makes it clear that he would undermine the important progress New York has achieved in recent years to defend worker rights and gender equity. We strongly urge the Senate to reject this nomination.”
Hochul on Friday defended her decision of LaSalle and said lawmakers and union officials are misrepresenting his record, and noted they're taking issue with three cases of thousands throughout a lifetime of work.
"When you actually read those cases that are in question, they have nothing to do with the woman's right to choose, and the labor issue was a procedural decision to send it down to the trial courts," the governor said following a winter storm briefing in Latham on Friday. "So I think there's many mobilized effort from the beginning because certain individuals wanted individuals who were, who are sent to me. But I'm looking for someone who you can't tell what their political disposition is. I want someone who's going to be looking at every single case, applying the law to the facts, and doing what's right."
At least 10 senators, including two incoming freshmen lawmakers, have released statements that they will not vote to approve LaSalle to lead the state court system.
Several others, including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, have not committed to supporting the governor's choice and say they will wait for Senate confirmation hearings.
Hochul said she evaluated the credentials and voting records of the seven candidates for the position carefully.
She added there's a concentrated effort by the people who oppose his nomination.
"I'm not having, never wanted to have, a political litmust test that some may ahve wanted me to do," Hochul said. "So I'm asking all the senators, because they're the only ones who are deeply involved in helping this process going forward, the ultimate decision to allow this state to have the very first Latino head of the highest court in New York. I think that's historic. And all these objections will be overcome when the senators look at with an open mind, and actually study the nature of those cases. So I'm standing with him, I'm proud of the selection and I encourage everyone to give him the fair hearing that he's entitled to."
Confirmation hearings and proceedings will take place in January. Session resumes Jan. 4.