New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and other prominent Democrats and Latino leaders on Saturday called for a fair hearing of the governor’s nominee chief justice, dismissing claims by liberal lawmakers that Hector D. LaSalle was too conservative and his nomination should be withdrawn.
Hochul, who appeared at the Latino Pastoral Action Center’s leadership meeting, pledged to stand by LaSalle — a veteran judge who, if confirmed, would become the first Latino to lead the seven-member High Court and oversee New York’s judicial system. She called him “excellently qualified” for the job.
“I checked all the documents. I’ve seen all the cases, even the ones slandered and used against him, and… they’ve been misrepresented. And I won’t stand for that,” Hochul said, arguing that previous nominees have not been “biased” and “misrepresented” like LaSalle.
While Supreme Court nominations typically sail through the state Senate, LaSalle quickly drew opposition. Some progressive activists, union officials and Democratic senators claim his court record is an anti-abortion, anti-labour and anti-due case and his appointment would tilt the state’s top court too far to the right.
“Now more than ever, we need our Court of Appeals to be the leaders in upholding our civil liberties, defending our democracy, and protecting New Yorkers’ most vulnerable,” New York City Sen. Kristen Gonzalez said recently before a state capitol press conference. She asked Hochul to withdraw the nomination.
The debate over LaSalle’s nomination has created division among former political allies.
“It was difficult. I’m getting calls, I’m getting threats from the same people I fought with to pass one of the most progressive laws in the last 25 years,” said Sen. Luis R. Sepúlveda, referring to a recently passed law allowing access to the Driving license regardless of immigration status.
“They were my friends,” Sepúlveda told the crowd. “But I tell them what I tell you all. I don’t care if this fight costs me my political career. This is the hill I will die on.” Sepúlveda supports LaSalle’s nomination.
LaSalle currently serves as chairman of the Second Department, where he oversaw the nation’s largest state appellate court with a budget of approximately $69 million. He was appointed to the position by the then governor in 2021. Andrew Cuomo.
Former Chief Justice Janet DiFiore resigned last summer.