NY governor announces new pick to lead state’s highest court

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has nominated Rowan D. Wilson as chief judge of the state’s highest court, her second candidate for the job. If approved, Wilson would become the first Black person to hold the position.

Wilson is a Harvard Law School graduate who currently serves as an associate judge of the Court of Appeals – a position he has held since 2017. He said in a statement Monday that serving as chief judge would be “the honor” of his career.

Hochul said in her announcement that Wilson’s “sterling record of upholding justice and fairness makes him well-suited to lead the court at this critical time.”

Hochul’s nomination of Wilson comes after Hector LaSalle, her initial pick for chief judge, was rejected by Democrats in her own party in favor of a judge with a more politically progressive record. LaSalle’s supporters said he was being unfairly targeted by the left and that his judicial opinions were being misconstrued.

Brian Ginsberg, a frequent litigator in the state’s Court of Appeals who has appeared before Wilson, said the veteran judge is a “probing questioner” and would be a “force of intellectual leadership” in the role.

Hochul also nominated former state solicitor general Caitlin J. Halligan, who is currently a partner at a New York City-based law firm, to fill Wilson’s spot as associate judge. Halligan was a highly recommended candidate from a list of seven reviewed by the Commission on Judicial Nomination, Hochul said.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chair of the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the importance of nominees to the state’s Court of Appeals “cannot be overstated” given recent decisions by federal courts on issues such as abortion and gun safety.

He said he looks forward to conducting hearings to examine the nominees’ records.

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, a Democrat, expressed support for Wilson’s nomination, saying Wilson 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.”

Hochul also announced “strong support” for Wilson’s intention to recommend Joseph Zayas as chief administrative judge, where he’d oversee a budget of more then $3 billion. ___

Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.

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