The matter regarding Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle as her preferred choice for the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals will go before a court. A lawsuit was filed on Thursday, February 9th in Suffolk County by Long Island State Senator Anthony Palumbo.
Palumbo is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the lawsuit, Palumbo names state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and her Democrat colleagues who were part of the Judiciary Committee that rejected LaSalle. The lawsuit asserts that LaSalle’s confirmation as Chief Justice should be subject to a full Senate vote.
“Justice LaSalle is entitled to an up or down vote by the full state Senate, not as a courtesy, but because the constitution requires it,” Palumbo said in a statement.
New York State’s Constitution says the governor selects a chief judge with the “advice and consent” of the Senate.
“The New York State Constitution is clear, Judicial nominations must be considered before the full State Senate. As such, the Judiciary Committee, no matter its size, serves only as an advisory body, providing ‘advice and consent’ to the entire Senate Membership,” Palumbo’s statement.
Stewart-Cousins’ spokesperson, Mike Murphy, dismissed the lawsuit. “We have not been served regarding any lawsuit. It is embarrassing, but not surprising, that the Senate Republicans have no basic understanding of the law or the constitution,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt agreed with the sentiment of the lawsuit. “Senate Democrats should not be allowed to circumvent Constitutional processes for political purposes. As public officials, it is our responsibility to uphold the principles of our State’s Constitution,” said Ortt. “I thank Senator Palumbo for his action and look forward to the Court’s decision.”
In the case that Palumbo’s lawsuit is successful, a vote will be held in the Senate. In that instance, those rooting for LaSalle would still face a challenge for him to be confirmed as Chief Justice.
The Democrats, with a significant number of them against LaSalle’s nomination, enjoy a majority in the Senate.
Hochul Hopes Dashed
The lawsuit comes at a time when Hochul and her Democratic colleagues have been in disagreement over the process regarding LaSalle’s confirmation as Chief Justice. The Democrats who are against LaSalle rising to the highest office in New York State claim the hopes of him rising to the Court of Appeals were extinguished when the Senate Judiciary Committee of January 18 rejected him.
In the aftermath of the Judiciary Committee that rejected LaSalle’s nomination, Hochul said she would look at all available avenues and decide what to do next. Hochul’s office did not respond when asked for a comment regarding the lawsuit launched by Palumbo.
LittleAfrica News has previously reported on Governor Hochul’s nomination of LaSalle. LaSalle’s nomination was rejected by progressive Democrats for right-leaning judgments he made in the past. They also did see a former prosecutor as the perfect candidate for the seat of Chief Justice saying that a judge with experience as a civil rights or defense attorney was who they deemed a suitable candidate.
LaSalle did receive significant support from the Latino community and colleagues from the legal fraternity. The Latino community stood behind him, speaking at events in favor of his nomination.