New chief judge shortlist features three current Court of Appeals judges, no Latinos

Gov. Kathy Hochul must select a nominee to send to the state Legislature by the end of April.

The new shortlist does not include any Latino candidates, dashing the hopes of LaSalle supporters who had hoped that New York could have its first Latino chief judge.

The new shortlist does not include any Latino candidates, dashing the hopes of LaSalle supporters who had hoped that New York could have its first Latino chief judge. Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

On Friday, the Commission on Judicial Nomination released a shortlist of seven finalists for the chief judge position. Gov. Hochul now has between 15 and 30 days to select one of the seven candidates to nominate. Once she nominates one of them, the state Senate will have 30 days to hold hearings and vote on whether to confirm the nominee.

The shortlist released on Friday is significantly different from the commission’s previous shortlist, released in November. Unsurprisingly, the new shortlist does not include Hector LaSalle – the appellate judge whom Hochul nominated as chief judge in December, leading to a brutal nomination fight that ultimately ended in the state Senate’s unprecedented rejection of his nomination.

Notably, the new shortlist does not include any Latino candidates, dashing the hopes of LaSalle supporters who had hoped that New York could have its first Latino chief judge.

"As it was made clear with the travesty committed against Judge Hector LaSalle's nomination – no Latinos need apply when it comes to the top position in the state’s judiciary. Mission accomplished," Latinos for LaSalle said in a statement.

The seven chief judge candidates are:

  • *Anthony Cannataro, associate judge of the Court of Appeals and acting chief judge
  • Shirley Troutman, associate judge of the Court of Appeals
  • Rowan Wilson, associate judge of the Court of Appeals 
  • Elizabeth Garry, presiding justice of the Third Department appellate courts
  • Gerald Whalen, presiding justice of the Fourth Department appellate courts
  • *Corey Stoughton, attorney-in-charge of special litigation and law reform at the Legal Aid Society
  • Caitlin Halligan, attorney in private practice

(Candidates marked with an asterisk also appeared on the commission’s previous shortlist.)

The shortlist includes three current Court of Appeals judges: acting Chief Judge Anthony Cannataro and associate judges Shirley Troutman and Rowan Wilson. While Cannataro had made the commission’s previous shortlist, Troutman and Wilson had not. The two judges had often found themselves at odds with former Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who appointed many members of the Commission on Judicial Nomination.

Now that Troutman is on the list, she’s widely believed to be the front-runner for the nomination. Troutman, a Buffalo native, was Hochul’s first appointee to the Court of Appeals after becoming governor. The pair have a long-standing history, and Troutman’s position as a swing vote on a court with a powerful conservative voting bloc could serve to help unify opposing forces on the court. Hochul would also create a new vacancy on the Court of Appeals by nominating Troutman – or Wilson or Cannataro – which would afford her a second appointee on the court to begin shifting away from the influence of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

If nominated and confirmed, Troutman would also be the first Black woman to lead the Court of Appeals. But her history as a prosecutor may ruffle the feathers of some progressives in the state Senate.

The new shortlist replaced all but two candidates – leaving only Stoughton, who had the support of progressives that tanked LaSalle, and Cannataro, whom progressives vehemently opposed. Besides LaSalle, the four candidates left off the list were: Jeffrey Oing, an associate appellate judge and the only Asian candidate on the previous list; Abbe Gluck, a well-respected Yale Law professor; Alicia Ouellette, the dean of Albany Law School; and Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, the deputy chief administrative judge who leads the court system’s Office for Justice Initiatives.

A high-ranking and long-serving Black judge who started her career as a public defender, Richardson-Mendelson was viewed as a top choice among Democratic lawmakers. When Hochul nominated LaSalle, he pledged to elevate her to the role of chief administrative judge, the second-highest position in the judiciary, and it’s possible that Hochul’s new pick will make the same commitment. 

Halligan, the only new addition who is not a sitting judge, has also made the news recently after The Buffalo News reported that Hochul’s office had sought to retain her in January for potential legal fallout over the LaSalle nomination. Currently a private practice attorney, Halligan used to serve as the state’s solicitor general.

The Court New York Deserves, a coalition of progressive organizations that helped lead opposition to LaSalle’s nomination, previously indicated its support for Stoughton and Wilson and its opposition to Cannataro.