WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the New York Senate voted 39-20 to reject Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) nominee, Hector LaSalle, for chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court). This vote comes after the Senate Judiciary Committee previously blocked his confirmation on Jan. 18, with progressives citing concerns about LaSalle’s record on reproductive rights, labor and civil rights issues. After the committee blocked LaSalle’s confirmation in early January, a Republican state senator sued the New York Senate and argued that LaSalle was entitled to a full vote of the state Senate. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted again to send the nomination (without recommendation) to the floor and the full state Senate ultimately voted against LaSalle’s confirmation.
State courts, particularly the highest courts, are extremely important in the context of voting rights and redistricting lawsuits. In 2022, redistricting litigation over the state’s congressional and state Senate map made it to the highest court, resulting in a redraw that significantly shifted New York’s congressional delegation.
In New York specifically, two integral cases are currently before the state’s intermediate appellate court and could potentially be before the state’s highest court in the future:
- Hoffmann v. New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, which challenges the 2021 map-drawing actions of New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission
- Fossella v. Adams, which challenges New York City’s non-citizen voting law.
As of Feb. 15, a case challenging New York’s assembly map was appealed to the state’s highest court, which will now weigh in on a lower court’s decision stating that the Assembly map was enacted through an unconstitutional process and therefore must be redrawn. With the rejection of LaSalle’s nomination, Hochul announced that she will “work toward making a new nomination.”