ALBANY — Gov. Hochul may not let her pick to head the Court of Appeals go down without a fight.
A day after the governor’s fellow Democrats in the state Senate rejected Hector LaSalle’s nomination to be New York’s top judge, Hochul on Thursday refused to rule out taking legal action.
“We’re certainly weighing all of our options,” Hochul said following an event in East Harlem.
On Wednesday, the Dem-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted down LaSalle following a five-hour hearing during which the 54-year-old jurist pushed back against claims that he is too conservative to head up the state’s sprawling judicial system.
“I think yesterday was an opportunity for all New Yorkers to listen to an exceptionally qualified jurist who shares the values of New Yorkers; pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-LGBTQ,” Hochul said.
“I thought he did an extraordinary job and we’re certainly looking at all of our options,” she added.
The governor and LaSalle’s supporters maintain that the state Constitution requires the full Senate vote on nominations.
Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan), the chairman of the judiciary committee, stood by his belief that the Senate fulfilled its constitutional duties, calling potential legal action a waste of “time, energy and money.”
“I hope that we can move on quickly,” he told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. “I would like to think this is a bump in the road. Democrats can disagree and we can also get over our differences and hopefully work for the common good.”
The Senate has never rejected a governor’s pick for chief judge since the current nomination system has been in place since the 1970s.
LaSalle’s nomination last month led to a protracted public battle over his judicial record as progressive lawmakers, union leaders and advocates cast him as a poor choice to serve as the state’s top judge.
Critics argued the former prosecutor’s judicial records showed him to be anti-union, anti-reproductive rights and overall too conservative for the post. More than a dozen Senate Dems openly opposed the appointment in recent weeks.
LaSalle, a Long Island native, currently serves as the presiding justice of the 2nd Appellate Division in Brooklyn and he would have been the first Latino to lead the Court of Appeals if confirmed.
Hochul in part pegged the loss on Senate Dems expanding the number of members serving on the judiciary committee from 15 to 19 ahead of the vote.
“I think if you look at the original composition of that committee before it was changed, there were enough votes to go forward,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) indicated repeatedly that a large enough number of members privately expressed opposition to LaSalle that his nomination likely would have been voted down by the full 63-seat chamber.
Democrats have a 42-member supermajority in the Senate.
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