1st New York State Black Chief Judge confirmed
ALBANY, NY (AP) – The New York Senate on Tuesday confirmed Rowan Wilson as the state’s first black chief justice, two months after lawmakers inflicted a political defeat on Gov. Kathy Hochul by rejecting her original nominee for the Supreme Court post .
Wilson has been an associate judge on the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, since 2017. Hochul hired him earlier this month to head the seven-member High Court and oversee the state’s judicial system. The confirmation vote comes after months of conflict between Hochul and its Democrats, who control the Senate over how the court runs.
“Judge Wilson has proven to be one of the most thoughtful, best-written, and most persuasive jurors in the country and in Circuit Court history,” Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the floor.
Wilson’s nomination came after Hochul’s first choice, Hector LaSalle, faced a barrage of criticism from liberal senators and their allies, who criticized decisions he made as an appellate judge.
In an unprecedented move, the Senate repelled LaSalle in February. LaSalle would have been the first Latino to head the Supreme Court.
Wilson, 62, is more palatable to liberals, who have praised the Harvard Law School graduate’s accomplishments on civil rights, labor and environmental issues.
Wilson also disagreed with a top court ruling last year that rejected new congressional tickets that were widely seen as favoring Democrats.
This dissent has alarmed some Republicans because the appeals court may one day consider a Democrat-backed lawsuit aimed at forcing the redrawing of New York’s congressional boundaries. The current cards helped the GOP regain control of the US House of Representatives last year.
Senate Republicans have labeled Wilson an “activist judge” and focused their opposition on a recent ruling he authored overturning a rape conviction. Wilson cited the local prosecutor’s years of delay in prosecuting the case.
“This result, I think, is outrageous. I think it’s misapplication of the law,” said Senator Anthony Palumbo, the senior Republican on the committee.
Wilson silently watched the debate from a Senate gallery. He had no comment on the way out.
Wilson succeeds Judge Janet DiFiore, who resigned in August. His confirmation leaves a vacancy for an associate judge at the Supreme Court.
Hochul said she intends to nominate former attorney general Caitlin Halligan, who is currently a partner at a New York City-based law firm, to fill the assistant judge’s position.
Halligan answered questions from the Judiciary Committee earlier Tuesday and set up an expedited confirmation process when Hochul officially makes the nomination.
Associated Press writer Maysoon Khan contributed. Khan is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter at @maysoonkahn.
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