NY Judge target of “character assassination?” Progs say “No”

Lee Heidhues 1.18.2023

“Character assassination.”

That’s how some observers in New York are describing the rejection of Latino jurist Hector LaSalle to be the Empire State’s top Judge.

New York Progressives view it from a different perspective. They feel Governor Kathy Hochul (shown in photo above) should have named a known Progressive to the Bench.

Progressives are still smarting from a lack of support from moderate Democrats resulting in the loss of several Congressional seats in the New York City area last November. These defeats at the ballot box may well have cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives in Washington.

Now the Progressives are exacting a measure of revenge and sending a message to the moderate Governor Hochul. We demand more respect.

Excerpted from The New York Times 1.18.2023

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul’s embattled nominee to become New York State’s top judge was rejected on Wednesday, an unprecedented repudiation that underscored a deep division among Democrats on the direction of the state’s judicial system.

Senator Luis Sepúlveda, a Democrat from the Bronx who is Puerto Rican and voted in favor of Justice LaSalle, said the judge had been the target of a “character assassination” because he was Latino.

After a combative hourslong hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 against the nomination of Justice Hector D. LaSalle, whose nomination was strongly opposed by progressives who saw him as too conservative.

Progressive New York union members rally against judicial nominee Hector LaSalle

The committee’s rejection — the first time that New York lawmakers have voted against a governor’s choice for chief judge — laid bare how vulnerable Ms. Hochul, a Buffalo-area Democrat, may be to a challenge from her own party.

All 10 senators who voted against the judge were Democrats; two Democrats voted in favor of Justice LaSalle, while one Democrat and all six Republicans on the committee voted in favor “without recommendation.”

The rejection does not necessarily mean that the LaSalle saga is over. The governor has not ruled out taking legal action to force a vote on Justice LaSalle’s nomination on the full Senate floor, raising the specter of a constitutional showdown.

Despite pressure on her to withdraw her nomination, the governor has forcefully defended Justice LaSalle. Over the weekend she rallied support alongside other top Democrats, including Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the U.S. House minority leader, stressing the symbolic importance of elevating a jurist of Puerto Rican descent to the upper echelons of state government.

Indeed, Justice LaSalle’s nomination has split Latino elected officials, with some suggesting that he was subjected to a double standard because of his ethnicity.