New York State

3 things to know about Cuomo’s new judicial picks

Both Court of Appeals nominees could prove vital to New York and the governor’s future.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas Don Pollard/Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week nominated Madeline Singas, Nassau County District Attorney, and Anthony "Tony" Cannataro, Administrative Judge in the Civil Court of the City of New York, to sit on the New York Court of Appeals. Both Singas and Cannataro will fill the spots of retiring Judge Leslie Stein and the late Judge Paul Feinman respectively. The New York Court of Appeals has immense power as the highest court in the state. Staffed with seven justices, the Court of Appeals usually hears decisions made by lower courts, and can sometimes decide on original matters as well. And the timing of the move may end up playing into Cuomo’s favor. 

Since taking the helm as governor in 2011, Cuomo has stacked the court entirely with his own picks, and, in the wake of Stein and Feinman vacating their spots, the state Assembly will have to vote to confirm Singas and Cannataro before the end of the legislative session in June. If the Assembly then chooses to vote on impeaching Cuomo, given his recent scandals, and the vote is successful, a joint impeachment court comprising Court members and Senate members would make a final vote on Cuomo’s fate. While extensive investigations are still being conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the Assembly Judiciary Committee, causing a delay in the vote, Cuomo may be steeling himself for the vote by adding members to the Court of Appeals who may be sympathetic to him.

Singas and Cannataro could be crucial to Cuomo’s political play. Here are 3 things to know about each. 

Madeline Singas

She’s focused on drug-related crimes. 

As Nassau County District Attorney, Singas has backed numerous measures designed to combat illicit drug use in the area. Using tools such as intelligence-based prosecution models, she has fought to topple local drug sales. She began her career in Queens, using her legal firepower to mitigate the crack wars happening at the time. Later in her career she also spearheaded programs designed to help those with drug addiction. 

She also has worked extensively on immigration issues. 

Singas grew up in Astoria, the child of Greek immigrants. Perhaps her childhood helped inspire the Office of Immigrant Affairs she formed in office. The organization primarily helps immigrants navigate the criminal justice system and seek support against crimes that may target immigrant populations, such as child abuse, financial crimes or hate crimes. The success of the Office of Immigrants Affair has been varied; in 2016, it only received 51 calls on its hotline, likely due to barriers of access or lack of awareness of the hotline. However, it has been operating for several years.

Her career spans 3 decades.

Singas got her start in politics as an assistant District Attorney at Queens County District Attorney’s Office in 1991, where she stayed until 2006. She then took on a role with Nassau County District Attorney’s Office as chief of their Special Victims Bureau, supporting, among others, sexual abuse survivors. Five years later, in 2011, she was appointed the Chief Assistant District Attorney within the county, finally being elected to her current position in 2015. 


Anthony Cannataro

He is heavily involved in LGBTQ issues. 

Cannataro is set to become the second LGBTQ judge appointed to the Court of Appeals, the first being his predecessor, Judge Paul Feinman, and has spoken on the importance of representation within court systems. In an interview with Schneps Media, Cannataro stated that he feels “people tend to forget sometimes that judges are regular people. We come in all different types, sizes and backgrounds.”

Cannataro is also Co-Chair of the Richard C. Failla LGBT Commission of the New York State Courts.

He has big shoes to fill, namely those of Judge Paul Feinman. 

Feinman was former president of the International Association of LGBTQ. Judges and a member of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission. He was appointed by Gov. Cuomo to the Court of Appeals in 2017. He became a widely revered judge with a decades-long career who died earlier this year due to complications from leukemia. 

“With his passing, we have lost his wisdom and keen sense of justice. We have also lost a champion of the rights of our LGBTQ citizens.” said New York State Bar Association President Scott M. Karson.

Cannataro’s own judicial career is lengthy.

Cannataro’s early career consisted of various roles, including a few law clerk positions. Cannataro became a judge in 2012 in the New York County Civil Court, going on to do stints in Kings County Family Court, Bronx County Civil Court, and New York County Supreme Court. He is now the Citywide Administrative Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York and a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. In just 10 years he has become a Court of Appeals nominee.