The progressive Democrats, who had expressly rejected Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle for Chief Justice, took a decisive step and voted against him in a State Senate vote. The State Senate vote was held on Wednesday, February 15th. The vote was put to the floor with the final result being 39-20 against LaSalle’s nomination to chief justice.
The progressive Democrats had staunchly indicated how they were not in favor of LaSalle due to decisions he had made in the past regarding labor unions and abortion rights. He was seen as a right leaning judge. While the Democrats had rejected LaSalle at a Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Joe Palumbo had instituted legal action to have the LaSalle matter placed before the State Senate vote. In order to avoid more unnecessary actions, the Democrats decided to carry out the vote.
“The nomination was brought to the Senate floor, as has been requested for weeks, and unsurprisingly, it did not prevail. There should be no further questions on the viability of this nomination,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said to the media after the vote.
“Everybody is paying attention to who is sitting in the judiciary, who’s making these decisions,” she said, pointing at the recent decisions courts had reached at the federal level that had significantly altered abortion rights and gun control laws. “It was not inappropriate for us, with the eyes of the nation and the state on us, to look for a nominee that is able to lead the court in this really, really critical time.”
Governor Hochul also spoke after the vote, saying while she was not happy with the result, she would accept it. She said she would begin searching for another nominee for the position of Chief Justice. “This vote is an important victory for the Constitution,” she said in a statement. “But it was not a vote on the merits of Justice LaSalle, who is an overwhelmingly qualified and talented jurist.”
This was the first time a Governor’s nomination for Chief Justice was rejected by the State Senate.