As is being widely reported, there is a ferocious battle being waged over Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Appellate Judge Hector La Salle to be New York’s next chief judge. New York’s constitution provides that the nomination has to be confirmed by a favorable vote in the NYS Senate. Unfortunately there is a concerted effort to derail the nomination in the Judiciary Committee and deny Judge LaSalle an up or down vote by the full Senate. The Governor says he is entitled to one, but a progressive cabal, which controls the Judiciary Committee and opposes his nomination, says he is not.
The Governor is right.
Judge LaSalle is a highly regarded, moderate-centrist member of the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court and is nearing the end of a process that would ordinarily lead to his becoming the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. His quest began with his being nominated by Governor Kathy Hochul. And in the normal course of events he could expect to be confirmed by a vote of the full New York State Senate, that is by the “consent of the Senate.” No nominee for Chief Judge has ever before not received a favorable vote by the Senate.
But this is not a normal time. Senate leaders insist that under the rules of the Senate his nomination cannot go forward to the full Senate unless he is first approved by a majority of the Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately the Judiciary Committee is comprised of 19 Senators and a Democratic Party majority which is in the thrall of a progressive left fiercely committed to the defeat of his nomination. Naturally, they have distorted his voting record, depicting him as some Neanderthal-like conservative leaning ogre.
Of particular concern is that they have seized upon several cases in which his votes on non-substantive procedural and largely technical, cut-and-dried issues resulted in a loss for progressive litigants like unions, accused criminals, abortion clinics and issues like police searches and worker protections. Although these rulings in no way involved ideology or were indications of his values, what only mattered was that his vote meant that he was unwilling to woodenly bow to “progressive” dogma and chose rather to follow his understanding of the governing laws and rules. This should be commended, not attacked.
We must not allow this injustice to take place. Judge LaSalle’s nomination should be brought before the full Senate for a hearing, regardless of the outcome of the vote in the Judiciary committee. By law, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals is appointed with the “consent of the senate,” clearly authorizing the full senate body to confirm or reject a nomination for the role. So the nomination needs to be brought in front of the full senate for a hearing. The process should not be subject to the whim of some senators on a frolic of their own.
But it is not just the legalities that matter. Judge LaSalle’s confirmation is in the public interest as well. In the course of an interview with The Jewish Press, New York Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez emphasized that Judge LaSalle was the real deal and that his talents and credentials made him a standout nominee. He said that if this were all just about Judge LaSalle and not raw politics, Judge LaSalle would sail through to confirmation. It is noteworthy that LaSalle comes by the nomination honestly, having come through independent judicial screening panels with the highest ratings.
Jewish Press readers are asked to take action by reaching out to their state senators urging them to support an up or down vote for Judge LaSalle and to vote for him in that vote.