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State Senate panel rejects LaSalle nomination, 10 to 9

Jan 19, 2023 1:00 am

Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jesse McKinley report for The New York Times that Hector D. LaSalle, Governor Kathy Hochul's nominee for the state's top judge, was rejected on January 18, by the state Senate Judiciary Committee, the first time New York lawmakers have rejected a governor's choice for chief judge. The 19-member committee voted 10 to 9 against moving LaSalle's nomination to a full vote on the Senate floor. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OR PLAY SHORT CLIP OF VOTE. All 10 who voted against the judge were Democrats; two Democrats voted in support of the nomination, while one Democrat and all six Republicans voted in favor “without recommendation." However, the rejection does not necessarily mean the matter is concluded. Hochul has not ruled out taking legal action to force a vote on the Senate floor, and she has argued that a committee vote is irrelevant; that her nominee must be subject to a full vote on the Senate floor. Senate Democrats, as well as other legal experts, argue the Senate has the authority to determine its own rules and procedures to consider judicial nominations, especially since the state Constitution does not explicitly say a nomination must be voted on by the full state Senate. LaSalle's nomination provoked an intense backlash from progressives. His nomination in December was immediately opposed by several unions, reproductive rights groups, and community organizations, which pointed to cases they said revealed he was anti-union and anti-abortion. At the hearing Wednesday, LaSalle attempted to dispel what he said were unfair characterizations of his judicial record. “I only ask that this body look at my entire record, not just the record that certain advocates have chosen to look at,” LaSalle said, arguing that some of his cases had been the target of “mischaracterization simply to derail my nomination.” Asked by lawmakers about his judicial philosophy, LaSalle argued that many of the cases that had been singled out had hinged on procedural questions, and did not necessarily reflect his underlying beliefs on larger issues involving union rights and abortion. LaSalle is serving as presiding justice of the Appellate Division of the Second Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court, which handles civil and criminal appeals from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Westchester County, and a half-dozen other counties. He was considered among the more moderate potential nominees from a list of seven candidates that Hochul was given to choose from by a special commission as she looked to replace Janet DiFiore, who resigned last year. Read the full story in The New York Times.