A panel of the New York State Senate has rejected Governor. Kathy Hochul’s appointment as chief justice of New York’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, potentially sparking a legal battle between the Democratic governor and the Democratic-majority legislature.
The New York State Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 against nominating Judge Hector LaSalle for the full Senate vote after a five-hour hearing during which members questioned LaSalle about his record, legal philosophy and past decisions. particularly on issues related to work and women’s right to abortion.
Ten Democrats voted against the nomination, two Democrats voted in favor, and one Democrat plus all six Republicans voted in favor, but “without recommendation.”
State courts across the country could play a significant role in the coming years, as the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court cedes power to state courts in fundamental rights cases once they have been decided by federal courts.
The future of LaSalle’s nomination now seems uncertain as Hochul weighs her options.
“I thought he did an exceptional job,” the governor told reporters Thursday after an unrelated event in Harlem. “We are certainly reviewing all our options.”
In the days leading up to the hearing, the Hochul government expressed doubts as to whether the Judiciary Committee could have the final say on the nomination. Hochul issued a statement Wednesday saying her nominee needs a full vote to be considered by the full Senate and highlighted the possibility of legal action that would likely spark a constitutional showdown in New York.
“While this was a thorough hearing, it was not a fair one because the outcome was predetermined. Several senators explained how they would vote before the hearing even began – including those who had recently been given seats on the newly expanded Judiciary Committee. While the committee has a role to play, we believe the constitution requires action by the entire Senate,” Hochul said in the statement.
Asked at the Harlem event to explain her next steps and whether she would pursue legal action, Hochul did not provide details.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, explained his decision to vote against the nomination Twittershortly after he cast his vote.
“Today I voted not to advance Judge LaSalle’s appointment to the New York Circuit Court of Appeals. We need a Chief Justice who stands up for the accused, workers, immigrants and women. But first, we need someone to unite our highest court. This candidate is not that person,” he tweeted.
The rejection is seen as a victory for progressive advocates and some left-leaning Senate Democrats, who have opposed the nomination for weeks and have drawn attention to what they see as LaSalle’s conservative positions.
Hochul submitted LaSalle’s nomination in December following the departure of former Chief Justice Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by the former Democratic governor. Andrew Cuomo resigned last summer as part of a court inquest.
LaSalle, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is an appeals court judge and former prosecutor. As chief justice, LaSalle would oversee New York’s entire justice system, which includes thousands of state and local judges, their staffs, and millions of cases. LaSalle would also make history as the state’s first Latino chief justice.
This story has been updated with additional developments.