New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul’s hopes to see Justice LaSalle selected as Chief Judge of the highest court in the state were dealt a blow on Wednesday, January 18th. A Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination citing decisions he made in previous cases. These decisions had him deemed “too conservative” by progressive Democrats who were unwilling to see him assume office.
Judiciary Committee Hearing Outcome
The Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 against Justice LaSalle’s ascension to the highest court in the state after an hours-long hearing. This will be the first time that a governor-nominated judge is rejected by a Judiciary Committee for the highest position in a New York State Court since 1977.
“I think that the nominee was thoughtful, engaged, and responsive, but I believe that there were questions that remain clearly on the part of my colleagues, which is why we decided not to advance the nomination,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a Democrat representing Manhattan.
“My colleagues and I take this duty to represent the people’s voice as a check and balance in this process, and as an independent branch of government, extremely seriously,” Hoylman-Sigal told Justice LaSalle. “There have been serious concerns raised about the nominee’s record on upholding New York’s laws defending reproductive choice, discrimination, immigration and protecting domestic violence victims.”
Justice LaSalle’s Perspective
Justice LaSalle had the opportunity to speak during the Judiciary Committee, highlighting his Puerto Rican background, which is important as he would be the first person of Latino heritage to assume the position. He further refuted the perception of him being painted by his opponents. Furthermore, Justice LaSalle said that he respects women’s rights to abortion as well as those of labor unions to organize.
“Unions protect the rights of working people and offer a vital path to the middle class. We must protect the right to organize to ensure that our unions can thrive,” Justice LaSalle said. “This is what I believe, and if that is different from what you have heard or read, I am happy now to set the record straight.”
Justice LaSalle told the committee that he always looked to make the right decisions in the legal matters he presided over. “Like every judge, I know that not everyone agrees with every ruling, but I can promise you that in every case, I have sought and will continue to seek to give everyone a fair shake, to listen to arguments carefully, to do my best to apply the law to the facts before us, and to work with my colleagues to reach a fair and just result,” Justice LaSalle told the committee.
While Justice LaSalle was rejected by the Judiciary Committee, the door to ascend as Chief Judge has not been completely closed. On January 18th, Governor Hochul called the Judiciary Committee’s decision unfair, and predetermined and opined it was not the final step as her reading of the Constitution tells her that a final vote will have to be held in the full Senate. However, for a full Senate vote to occur, a court would have to give permission for it. It is speculated that Hochul sees that as the best option to get Justice LaSalle placed as Chief Judge because the Governor would be able to work and garner votes for him. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader in the State Senate, rejected that notion. “It’s clear that this nominee was rejected and that’s it,” she said. “We have to find a nominee that will be supported by the majority of the Senate and then get on with that.”
LittleAfrica News has previously reported on Justice LaSalle’s nomination and the reaction to it.