ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul put forward a new name for the state’s top judgeship Monday, two months after Democratic state lawmakers voted down her initial choice to fill the vacancy following the resignation of former New York State Court of Appeals chief Janet DiFiore.
Hochul’s latest nominee, Rowan D. Wilson, has served the past six years as Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. If confirmed, Wilson would become the first Black chief judge in state history.
In February, state Appeals Court Judge Hector LaSalle’s nomination was rejected by the state Senate by a 39-20 vote, with progressive members of the governor’s own party concerned about LaSalle’s record on issues including abortion rights.
Wilson would fill the role DiFiore left seven months ago.
Hochul has also nominated former New York State Solicitor General Caitlin Halligan to fill Wilson’s vacancy on the state’s top court.
“The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals not only leads the State’s highest court, but is also responsible for managing the diverse and complex courts across the state,” Hochul declared in a statement on Monday. “New Yorkers deserve a strong, effective, and thoughtful leader, and I am proud to nominate Judge Wilson as Chief Judge.
“Judge Wilson’s sterling record of upholding justice and fairness makes him well-suited to lead the court at this critical time,” Hochul said in her statement. “To ensure the Court continues to function effectively, I also intend to nominate Caitlin Halligan, who will bring a critical perspective to our justice system. Ms. Halligan was one of the highly recommended candidates from the list of seven reviewed by the Commission on Judicial Nomination. I look forward to working with these talented individuals to elevate the esteem of our State’s highest court, protect New Yorkers’ rights and safety, and ensure that justice is administered.”
The state Commission on Judicial Nomination sent Hochul a list of seven candidates for chief judge in March, an inventory that included Wilson.
“Serving as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals would be the honor of my career, and I am humbled by this nomination from Governor Hochul,” Wilson said in a statement. “Protecting the rights of New Yorkers is my top priority, and I look forward to working with Governor Hochul and our partners throughout the judiciary system to manage our courts and deliver justice.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, signaled his support for Hochul’s nominees on Monday.
“Associate Judge Rowan Wilson is an accomplished and well-respected jurist on the Court of Appeals, with a long and distinguished record in the private sector,” he said in a statement. “Similarly, Caitlin Halligan, a former New York State Solicitor General, has decades of experience in both the public and private sectors and has an excellent reputation in legal circles. The importance of these nominees to New York’s highest court cannot be overstated, especially given recent decisions by federal courts on issues such as abortion, gun safety, labor and the environment. I look forward to working with my colleagues to conduct fair and thorough hearings to examine the extensive records of Associate Judge Wilson and Ms. Halligan.”
Wilson served as trustee for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and for the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, and for 21 years as chairman of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.
Following the announcement of the nominations, Hochul subsequently signed a bill allowing her to immediately nominate Halligan to the Court of Appeals, assuming Rowan is confirmed.
“I am particularly excited about the prospect of Judge Wilson leading our state’s highest court as chief judge,” Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said in a statement. “He is exactly the type of person who can restore the integrity and reputation of the Court of Appeals after the damaging tenure of the previous administration.”
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.