‘Absolute disaster for Democrats’: NY Gov. Hochul’s nomination for top judge sparks a liberal meltdown

Few things are surprising in today’s world, but when uber-progressive New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced her nomination for the highest court in her state, jaws on both sides of the political aisle hit the floor.

Hochul selected Judge Hector LaSalle to serve on the New York Court of Appeals — a former prosecutor “with a conservative record against abortion, unions, and criminal defendants,” according to Alexander Sammon and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate.

The duo called Hochul’s choice “an absolute disaster for Democrats.”


During her announcement of LaSalle’s nomination, Hochul said, “The Court of Appeals is the highest court in the land, and it is a position of great authority and prestige. And I wanted to make sure that I found an individual who had the experience. He presides over the largest appellate court in the nation right now, and also has the right dispositions. Someone who is collegial and collaborative, who can bring the court together, as well as managing a very large court operation.”

“Ultimately, when it comes to the decisions, the people will look upon the New York State Court of Appeals as a preeminent court where progressive values are enshrined and that the Supreme Court will look at ours with envy when we continue the reputation that has not always been what it was, but at one time, we had a preeminent position in jurisprudence in our nation,” she said. “I want to regain that exceptionalism, and I believe that Judge Hector LaSalle leading this court will achieve exactly what I’m looking for.”

(Video: YouTube)

Few on the left agree with Hochul’s assessment.

“The governor had a chance to reshape the state’s highest court,” Sammon and Stern write. “She blew it.”

The seat on New York’s highest court was suddenly opened after Chief Judge Janet DiFiore resigned amid an ethics probe, leaving the court “sharply divided.”

Reports Slate:

DiFiore, the former chief judge, led a bloc of four conservatives that gained notoriety after invalidating Democrats’ congressional map and replacing it with a map favorable to Republicans. (This decision helped Republicans clinch their narrow majority in the House of Representatives.) When DiFiore stepped down due to an ethics scandal, she left the court split between three conservatives, two liberals, and one moderate. So the new chief judge could have either restored the court’s right-wing majority, sat at its ideological center, or led its left flank.

The Commission on Judicial Nomination gave Hochul seven options across the ideological spectrum, including several liberals. Yet she picked LaSalle, touting the fact that he’d be the first Latino chief judge while ignoring his alarming record. If confirmed, he is all but guaranteed to shore up the right-wing majority. His record as an intermediate appeals court judge demonstrates a deep hostility to the very values that Hochul claimed she wanted to uphold with this appointment.


“Alarming,” for Sammon and Stern, includes a vote ten years ago from LaSalle to shield an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” from an investigation by the New York attorney general that would have allegedly violated the clinic’s First Amendment rights.

Also “alarming” was LaSalle’s opinion that unions and union leaders can be sued by management in their official capacity and his move in 2014 to prevent a criminal defendant from appealing his conviction after he signed a waiver of his right to appeal.

“What’s remarkable about this string of decisions is that it aligns perfectly with SCOTUS’ current conservative agenda,” write Sammon and Stern.

Oh, the horrors!

City & State New York’s Rebecca C. Lewis posted on Twitter a lengthy thread of opposition.

“Today @GovKathyHochul had the opportunity to nominate a Chief Judge that prioritizes the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers,” tweeted the self-described “Democratic socialist” State Senator-elect from Queens, Kristen Gonzalez. “Instead she chose one of the most conservative justices on the appellate bench. I hope my colleagues join me in voting NO on Hector Lasalle.”

Jabari Brisport from District 25 thinks Hochul’s move is racist.

“In Oct/Nov, @GovKathyHochul came to our communities to curry Black votes. This week she’s tried to push through bail reform rollbacks & just nominated a former prosecutor to our highest court,” he tweeted. “It’s indefensible to ask for Black votes and then work to incarcerate us. No on LaSalle.”

And the state senator from the Bronx, Gustavo Rivera, said, “While I recognize that this may be an important moment for our Latino communities, at this moment I cannot support Gov. Hochul’s nomination of Judge LaSalle as Chief Judge given his anti-choice & anti-union decisions when these rights are being attacked nationally.”

“Hochul just betrayed her own party by appointing a conservative judge to the NYSC,” wrote one Twitter user. “With democrats like her who needs republicans.”

“A liberal majority in the Court of Appeals could have allowed the state legislature to redraw congressional maps, removing the GOP bias imposed by the special master. And simply returning redistricting responsibility to state lawmakers could conceivably change control of the House in 2024,” wrote Sammon and Stern. “If LaSalle is confirmed, Democrats can kiss that dream goodbye.”


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