The New York Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) choice for the state’s chief judge Wednesday, demonstrating a split among Democrats in the state.
The committee, which is made up of 19 state senators, narrowly voted against advancing Justice Hector D. LaSalle, who was nominated by Hochul in December to be the chief judge of New York’s Court of Appeals. The committee voted 10-9 against moving LaSalle, who faces criticism from the left over his judicial record, to the full Senate.
“While this was a thorough hearing, it was not a fair one, because the outcome was predetermined,” Hochul said in a statement. “Several senators stated how they were going to vote before the hearing even began — including those who were recently given seats on the newly expanded Judiciary Committee. While the Committee plays a role, we believe the Constitution requires action by the full Senate.”
State Sen. Rob Ortt, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said in a statement that the GOP is also in favor of holding a full Senate hearing for LaSalle.
“The radical majority members of the Judiciary Committee put their far-left politics ahead of their obligation to the people of New York, effectively blocking Justice LaSalle from becoming the first Latino Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals,” Ortt said in a statement on Twitter. “We believe this nomination is due consideration by the full Senate, where it should be considered with an open mind based on his qualifications, not politics.”
The 10 members who voted against LaSalle were Democrats, many of who publicly criticized his record, according to The New York Times. They say his past rulings regarding reproductive rights and organized labor make him a bad fit for the job.
In August, a group of Democratic state legislators urged New York’s Commission on Judicial Nomination to consider public defenders or civil rights attorneys for the state’s top judge, but LaSalle has held neither job title.
LaSalle is currently the presiding justice of the Appellate Division of the Second Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court, and was appointed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).