A plan devised by Governor Hochul and Senate Democrats to expedite the nomination process to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, is poised for passage. They have the numbers to get it through and change a 1970s-era system, but their antics violate the state constitution and will be invalidated by the inevitable lawsuit. Someone, please file a lawsuit.
This is the fourth time in less than a year that Albany Democrats have violated the nation’s highest statute. The courts invalidated their blatantly political gerrymandering last year, coupled with a modification to the redistricting panel that they implemented despite the fact that voters in 2021 rejected a similar amendment to the Constitution.
Hector LaSalle’s Court of Appeals chief judge appointment was unconstitutionally blocked by the Senate majority.
The state Commission on Judicial Nomination created a new list of seven candidates for Hochul to pick from when the Senate ultimately capitulated and rejected LaSalle. And from this resulted the agreement. Hochul desires to appoint one of the present associate judges, Shirley Troutman or Rowan Wilson, as chief judge. Hochul might choose a runner-up from the list to fill the associate position without requiring a fresh list.
The issue is that the Constitution states, “The commission shall evaluate the qualities of candidates… and, whenever a vacancy… exists, should make a written report and suggest eligible candidates to the governor.” No vacancy exists until Troutman or Wilson assumes the position of chief.
Hence, there cannot be a list. The Constitution prohibits the use of outdated lists, whether they are a few weeks or decades old. And why the hurry? Five weeks after LaSalle’s defeat, a fresh list was prepared.
In 1977, the public agreed that the appointed court must submit a written report for each vacancy. Only the general population may amend the Constitution.