New York state senator sues to force vote on blocked chief justice nominee

New York state senator sues to force vote on blocked chief justice nominee

By Daniel Wisner

(Reuters) – A Republican New York state senator filed a lawsuit on Thursday to force a Senate vote on Democratic Governor Cathy Hochul to become the state’s chief judge, after lawmakers blocked the nomination last month.

State Senator Anthony Palumbo, who represents the Long Island district, said in a complaint filed in state court that New York’s constitution requires the full 63-member Senate to vote on confirming Appellate Judge Hector LaSalle to the position.

The Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 last month to reject LaSalle’s nomination after unions and liberal advocacy groups claimed his record was too conservative.

Palumbo said in the lawsuit that the state constitution, which requires the governor to appoint a chief justice “with the advice and consent of the Senate,” was designed to prevent such an outcome. LaSalle was the first nominee for chief justice to be rejected by a Senate committee.

Allowing the committee to block a nominee “would prevent individual senators from any public scrutiny that would result in a full floor vote, reducing the process to a small number of senators controlling the outcome,” Palumbo’s lawyers wrote.

A spokesman for the Senate Democratic majority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Palumbo sued the Senate, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​and the senators who voted against LaSalle.

At last month’s confirmation hearing, members of the Judiciary Committee questioned LaSalle about his decision, which they said showed bias toward prosecutors, employers and an anti-abortion group.

LaSalle says his critics have misrepresented his record and that he supports access to abortion, the right of workers to unionize and the constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

New York’s chief justice heads the seven-member Court of Appeals, which has the final say in interpreting state law and oversees the state’s vast court system.

(Reporting by Daniel Wisner in Albany, New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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