Hector D. LaSalle, a judge with a reputation for being centrist and moderate, was nominated by New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday for the top judicial office in the state, which prompted pushback from leftists.
According to the office of the governor, Justice LaSalle would be the first Latino to hold the position of chief judge on the New York State Court of Appeals should his nomination be approved by the State Senate for a term of 14 years. In addition to their duties as members of the court, chief judges are responsible for managing the whole of their state’s judicial system. This includes more than 3,000 state and local judges, 15,000 staff workers, 300 venues, and millions of cases.
It is possible that Justice LaSalle, who was seen to be one of the more moderate prospective choices, would face opposition in Albany. On Thursday, several leftist senators had already committed to voting against him. Democratic leaders had been putting pressure on the governor to nominate a progressive to the seven-member court to replace former Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. They did this because, in their view, the court had recently moved farther to the right.
Justice LaSalle was praised by Governor Hochul as having “the abilities, expertise, and intelligence to guarantee that our highest court is viewed as a leader throughout the nation” on Thursday.
According to Ms. Hochul, “our state courts are more vital today than they have ever been in the past when it comes to preserving our rights and maintaining New York values.” “The court will be led in doing just that by Judge LaSalle.”
As a result of the conservative shift on the United States Supreme Court, it seems that state courts throughout the nation will take on a more important role in resolving disputes over basic rights that were previously heard and decided by federal courts. Cases concerning abortion, police searches, labour rights, bail reform, and the environment might be brought before the Court of Appeals in the next year.
The Appellate Division of the Second Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court, which handles civil and criminal appeals from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Westchester, as well as appeals from a half-dozen additional counties, is presided over by Justice LaSalle, who is 54 years old. Earlier in his career, he served both as an assistant attorney general and as the bureau head of the District Attorney’s Office in Suffolk County. In 2008, residents of Suffolk County chose him to serve on the State Supreme Court, and four years later, then-Governor Andrew M. Cuomo nominated him to the position of associate judge on the appellate court that he currently presides over.
Those who disagree with Justice LaSalle refer to the votes he cast on a number of different issues when he was serving as an appellate judge as the reason for their disagreement. In a case that was heard in 2014, Justice LaSalle concurred with the decision of the majority to reject the appeal of a guilty plea entered by a defendant who was charged with weapons possession. The appeal was rejected on the grounds that the defendant was aware that he had waived his right to an appeal when he entered his guilty plea.
The opinion stated that the request was too broad and infringed on the operator’s rights under the First Amendment. Justice LaSalle joined the opinion because she believed that the request violated the operator’s rights under the First Amendment.
The people who advocated for Justice LaSalle said that the decisions in issue centred on procedural concerns and did not represent his fundamental principles towards the rights of defendants, abortion rights, or organised labour. They also pointed to other cases, including a decision that he made in 2018 in which he voted to require the New York State Board of Parole to reconsider the bid for release of a man who had been convicted of murder and sodomy when he was a teenager, nearly 40 years earlier. In this case, the murder and sodomy convictions occurred when the man was a teenager.
The New York Working Families Party and lawmakers backed by the Democratic Socialists of America were among those who came forward on Thursday to call on the State Senate to reject Justice LaSalle as a potential nominee. These progressive organisations had previously voiced their opposition to Justice LaSalle as a potential nominee.
This added an additional layer of difficulty to an already difficult process. Before she stepped down in August, she provided the decisive vote for a newcomer to the Court of Appeals who had voted in lock step with her to serve as the court’s temporary chief judge.
This position has traditionally been filled by the judge with the greatest years of experience on the court, hence his selection was a departure from the norm. Even though the court’s three liberal justices, two of whom had greater experience on the court, also applied, Judge Cannataro was the only sitting Court of Appeals judge to be authorised by the nominating panel.