Paterson rejects list of chief judge nominees

Saying he’s “outraged” by the absence of women on the short list to become New York’s next chief jud

Saying he’s “outraged” by the absence of women on the short list to become New York’s next chief judge, Gov. David Paterson has asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate legal alternatives.

“It seems highly unusual in a class of seven individuals seen to be capable of supervising the Court of Appeals that none one of them would be a woman,” Paterson said Wednesday. “The process has to be called into question.”

New York’s Commission on Judicial Nomination sent the governor on Monday a winnowed list of seven possible nominees from those who applied, including four state appeals court judges and three prominent lawyers in private practice. By law, Paterson has until Jan. 15 to choose one for a 14-year term, subject to Senate approval.

Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who is retiring Dec. 31, became the first woman on the seven-member court when she was appointed 25 years ago by then Gov. Mario Cuomo. She’s now one of four and was named the first female chief judge 15 years ago.

The commission, acting under a 1977 constitutional amendment replacing elections with a merit selection system, consists of 12 unpaid appointees, four named by the chief judge, four by the governor and four by majority and minority Senate and Assembly leaders. Paterson has appointed one.

Paterson said the seven lawyers listed are “highly qualified” and the state Constitution says the governor “shall choose” from the list.

“I won’t disobey the rules of the Constitution. However, I will explore my options, and I have asked the attorney general to explore what our options are,” Paterson said. “The issue is that I don’t accept that there wasn’t a woman in this state that wasn’t qualified to serve on the Court of Appeals and that for some reason that this process was unable to find one.”

“We’ve had this problem before in our society, and this is something that concerns me,” the governor said. He added that he had “no real desire” to ask the commission to repeat the process, it’s restricted by law from adding more than seven names, and he doesn’t want those listed to suffer in this process.

Cuomo, the attorney general, said he agreed with Paterson the list is “flawed,” that the governor should be able to choose from qualified men and women in making his choice. “Something is wrong with either the process or the legislation or the way it was administered,” he said.

“We will be exploring the available legal options, discussing with the governor and his team, and deciding which way to go,” Cuomo said.

Peter Kiernan, counsel to Paterson, said the commission failed to submit a required report to the governor on its deliberations, providing instead only brief biographies of the seven men. He said the panel should have done more outreach to produce a wider pool of applicants, and the limit of seven names may be a constitutional flaw and could be expanded by law in the future.

The seven candidates named by the nominating commission were Court of Appeals associate justices Theodore Jones Jr. and Eugene Pigott Jr., Appellate Division justices Jonathan Lippman and Steven Fisher, and attorneys George Carpinello of Albany and Evan Davis and Peter Zimroth, both of New York City.

A call to commission Counsel Stephen Younger was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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