There should have been no surprise to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul that Hector LaSalle would become an unpopular pick to lead the state’s highest court. Democratic leadership in the state Senate warned the newly-elected governor in December that, of her seven-candidate shortlist for the judgeship, they could not guarantee the votes for LaSalle. Progressive members were deeply skeptical of the jurist's values on abortion and labor rights. Hochul nominated the former prosecutor anyway, Politico reports. In doing so, the Democratic governor set up an unprecedented showdown with lawmakers over her choice for chief judge of the state Court of Appeals. She now faces the prospect this month that LaSalle will become the first top judicial nominee ever to be rejected by the state Senate.
The confirmation fight pits the moderate Hochul against the party’s progressives, but it is also dividing Democrats both in and out of the state Senate. Some are calling for a fair hearing for LaSalle, who would be the state’s first Latino chief judge, and others are vehement in their opposition. Progressives and labor leaders see the pick as a betrayal after many within their ranks worked to deliver vital last-minute votes to Hochul during the final frantic days of last year’s election. Some reluctant allies are regretting their decision. At issue for the unions, progressive advocates and a coalition of liberal legal minds are a handful of decisions that LaSalle, who currently presides over the New York Supreme Court’s Second Department in Brooklyn, had joined. Despite the larger nuances of the cases and their participants, opponents say the rulings suggest LaSalle does not support abortion and union rights.