Choice of Chief Justice Hole Hector LaSalle faces new hurdle as key Senate Democrats plan to vote ‘no’

Gov. Hochul’s nomination of former Attorney Hector LaSalle as the next Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals hung in the balance Thursday as more Democrats in the State Senate vowed to reject the nomination.

Deputy leader Michael Janaris became the highest-ranking Democrat to condemn LaSalle after 10 others announced in recent days that they would vote to make him the first chief justice nominee ever rejected by lawmakers.

“I believe that Judge LaSalle represents a continuation of the status quo that has tarnished the reputation of the court and issued a decision that is inconsistent with the values ​​of New Yorkers,” said Janaris (D-Queens) in his speech. statement on twitter. “I will vote against if the nomination is brought before the Senate.”

Hohul will now need at least one Republican vote for LaSalle to be confirmed in the 63-seat State Senate if he leaves the committee. Despite the criticism, she told the Post she supports her decision to choose the person to become the first non-white chief justice in a statement Thursday.

“Judge LaSalle is a highly qualified, experienced and respected lawyer and his historic appointment deserves a full hearing and approval process,” she said. “I expect the Senate to fulfill its constitutional obligations and participate in a credible and fair process. I know that Judge LaSalle is the best candidate for this position, and I believe that when the senators hear him in person, they will agree.”

But State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) said that since Janaris is opposed to LaSalle, the chances of the nomination appear to be strong.

“It seems to me that this is an extremely difficult nomination to move forward,” Hoylman told The Post.

Janaris also argued that LaSalle, a centrist, would not “ensure the rejection of the harmful tenure of Janet DiFiore and her three followers still serving on the Court of Appeal.”

Kathy Hochul
Governor Hochul chose LaSalle for the position, but not everyone supports her choice.
Hans Pennink

DiFiore, who left office in August, is a former Republican prosecutor who has presided over the highest court that has ruled numerous conservative decisions by a 4-to-3 majority, belittling New York’s reputation as a progressive state.

“Unfortunately, there is a strong possibility that Judge LaSalle will be a continuation of the unacceptable status quo that has tarnished the reputation of our state’s highest court and delivered a decision that is inconsistent with the values ​​that New Yorkers hold dear,” said Gianaris, who also played a key role in foiling plans in 2019 to build an Amazon satellite campus in Queens.

Criticism from the left over LaSalle’s choice has intensified since last week, when lawmakers such as State Senator Rachel May (D-Syracuse) announced his previous work as a leading gang prosecutor and deputy chief of the Suffolk County Bureau of Special Investigations. Prosecutors would put criminal justice reformers at a disadvantage for years to come.

“After careful consideration of the candidacy, I am forced to conclude that he will be regressive on issues affecting women’s rights, labor issues and climate change. I will say no to Judge Lasalle.” – May tweeted Friday morning.

Liberals are also concerned about some of LaSalle’s previous rulings when he served on the Second Division of the State Supreme Court’s Court of Appeals in Brooklyn.

One such ruling in 2017 involved maternity crisis centers, which then-state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleged were illegally practicing medicine, urging women to avoid abortions, “making it look like a doctor’s office, asking for their clients’ medical records, testing for pregnancy and sonograms, assessment of gestational age and assessment of fetal health, ”says the court records.

Hector LaSalle
LaSalle will become the first Hispanic judge to lead a state Court of Appeals.

LaSalle was part of the four-judge panel that unanimously blocked the then-AG from issuing subpoenas for the center’s records, with Associate Justice Jeffrey Cohen writing that Schneiderman’s requests violate First Amendment rights for non-profit centers but were not “adapted enough to serve compelling investigative purpose for which it was released.”

Labor leaders also pointed to LaSalle’s decision in a 2015 case allowing Cablevision to sue union organizers who criticized their response to Hurricane Sandy.

“The law should have prevented the lawsuit,” wrote a group of nearly 50 New York legal scholars in a letter to Hohulu against LaSalle. “Actually the first [Judicial] The Department reviewed a case involving a similar issue but with different parties and dismissed it, relying in part on New York’s longstanding labor law.”

LaSalle could not be contacted for comment on Thursday.

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