Coalition of civil rights organizations, community leaders call on governor to pick one of their preferred candidates for chief judge

Pressure mounts on Gov. Kathy Hochul as a deadline to nominate a new Chief Judge in the state’s highest court nears. (Photo courtesy of Governor’s office)

Gov. Kathy Hochul must nominate her choice for chief judge of New York’s highest court and the entire state court system before the Dec. 23 deadline from a list of seven candidates provided by the Commission of Judicial Nomination late last month.

Following a careful analysis of the seven candidates’ records, civil rights organizations, community groups, national advocacy organizations and members of The Court New York Deserves coalition have endorsed three of them: Corey L. Stoughton, whose entire career has been dedicated to civil rights; Judge Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, a widely respected judge and court administrator; and Abbe R. Gluck, a highly accomplished academic with extensive experience in government.

They deemed three of the nominees as unacceptable, including Acting Chief Judge Anthony Cannataro, Justice Hector D. LaSalle and Justice Jeffrey K. Oing.

Peter Martin, the director of judicial accountability at the Center for Community Alternatives, is the lead organizer of The Court New York Deserves, a coalition of more than 145 organizations statewide.

“Since July, advocates and state senators have called for a new chief judge with a demonstrated appreciation for the law’s power to protect the most vulnerable,” Martin said. “The Commission on Judicial Nomination has clearly heeded these calls.”

In the fall, The Court New York Deserves campaign launched a campaign calling for a chief judge who will safeguard the rights of all New Yorkers, defend democracy and protect the most vulnerable. This movement is deemed especially important after constitutional rights, including the federal right to abortion, were stripped away by the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to The Court New York Deserves, the court is stripping fundamental rights while pushing “extremist right-wing values that invalidate common-sense state laws and undermine our democratic institutions.”

Make the Road New York, the Jackson Heights-based immigrant rights organization agrees with The Court New York Deserves.

“New Yorkers need and deserve a chief judge who will stand up for the rights of working families and communities of color that have all too often been neglected across our state,” said Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director Theo Oshiro. “Hochul would be wise to choose someone with a background in defending the most vulnerable in our state and standing up for civil rights, not someone who has spent their career defending corporate interests and/or exacerbating mass incarceration of people of color as a prosecutor. We urge her to listen to our communities and help deliver the chief judge that New Yorkers deserve.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris and 19 of his colleagues in the upper chamber penned a letter in August to the Commission of Judicial Nominations to propose candidates with diverse legal experience in civil rights, immigration and public defense. On Monday, Gianaris announced he was unanimously re-elected as Senate Deputy Leader, a leadership position he has held since 2019.

“Even after the unprecedented accomplishments of our historic majority, there remains much work ahead to protect New Yorkers’ rights against erosions coming from the federal and state court systems,” Gianaris said. “From protecting voting reforms to improving our criminal justice system and getting guns off the streets, to keeping our state a stronghold for working people and fighting for a greener New York, I am proud of the work we’ve done with the largest majority in history and look forward to continuing our efforts in the new year.”

More from Around New York