ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Following the Senate’s rejection of Hector LaSalle as Hochul’s initial Chief Judge nomination, the Governor has nominated Rowan Wilson for Chief Judge and Caitlin Halligan to replace Wilson as Associate Judge. Her nominations are being backed by the support of Democrats, but he may not be conservative enough to win everyone over.
“Rowan Wilson is brilliant, he’s been on the Court of Appeals, he’s extraordinarily bright, he’s very, very personable, he tends to be more liberal,” said Vincent Bonventre, professor of Law at Albany Law. This could be why the Senate is showing their support for Wilson in contrast to LaSalle who they felt would be too conservative for New York. Bonventre said Wilson tends to favor the rights of the accused, as opposed to law and order and crime control. Bonventre also said Wilson favors the rights of the workers rather than the rights of businesses. “What that means is that I think he’s going to sail through the Senate. But there will certainly be some rumblings against him by the republicans,” he said.
Republican Senator George Borrello explained his reservations about the Governor’s nomination, “We’re going to have to talk about the fact that this guy has proven to be a radical activist, jurist in the past and that’s the issue we’re going to have to face in his nomination and his confirmation.” Borrello said he’ll learn more during Wilson’s hearing, where he’ll be questioned by lawmakers. One thing that’s come into speculation is the fact that Wilson was against the redistricting ruling last year. AG James and Governor Hochul have filed a lawsuit challenging the Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw new congressional lines, a process that’s supposed to be done every ten years.
“And so I think that the democratic senators are saying that with Rowan Wilson as Chief and perhaps with Cailtin Halligan getting in the court there is a good chance that a majority of the court is going to say that the redistricting that we have in place now… the court of appeals should never have sent it to that to a trial judge,” said Bonventre.
And to add another layer of confusion, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there’s been conversations about eliminating the Commission on Judicial Nomination, the group tasked with screening candidates for vacancies on the Court of Appeals. “I’d like the executives to be able to name whomever they’re nominees are and again we put them through our process,” she said. If confirmed, Wilson would be the first black chief judge in the state’s history. The date for his hearing is to be determined.