Last week, Governor Hochul nominated Hector LaSalle as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Empire State. Her choice to nominate him and not seeing the coming backlash demonstrates a serious lack of political adeptness.
Back in November, the Governor published a Daily News op-ed outlining her criteria for a chief justice. Among requirements like being able to manage the large court system, Hochul wrote:
“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken — with decisions such as Dobbs vs. Jackson, taking away a woman’s right to choose, and New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs. Bruen, tossing a century-old law protecting New Yorkers from the proliferation of guns. We are now relying on our state courts more than ever to protect our rights. We need our courts to defend against this Supreme Court’s rapid retreat from precedent and continue our march toward progress.”
Now, with LaSalle’s nomination, Hochul has nominated someone who curtailed investigations into crisis pregnancy centers. LaSalle also allowed Cablevision to sue union members as individuals for defamation over their criticism of the telecom company’s response to Hurricane Sandy, circumnavigating protections normally afforded to union members.
The news created a backlash with a handful of state senators saying they would vote no or expressing skepticism. Multiple unions, including the powerful 32BJ SEIU, came out hard against the nomination, labeling him as anti-worker.
LaSalle’s nomination is historic. If confirmed, he would the first Latino Chief Justice to preside over the Court of Appeals. But his record would also help move the court more rightward.
In response to the backlash, Hochul said that “I never wanted to have a political litmus test.” This statement alone shows Hochul’s weak politics, entertaining the fantasy idea that justices are completely neutral just because they wear a robe.
It’s a political appointment. Full stop.
Even if his record on these issues didn’t personally bother us, the nomination shows a critical misunderstanding of current political winds. All the eyes are on the courts now, and having someone with these views is not tenable in the modern Democratic Party – where issues such as labor and abortion rights are key issues.