Gov. Kathy Hochul’s pick to lead New York’s highest court was in peril on Thursday after additional state senators said they’d vote against Justice Hector LaSalle's nomination as New York state's next chief judge.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris, the second-highest ranking member of the chamber, said in a statement that he would vote against Hochul’s nominee, tanking the Democratic support required to push LaSalle forward in the 63-seat chamber, where Democrats have a supermajority.
Opposition to LaSalle’s nomination has grown since last week, when the governor selected LaSalle, who currently oversees the Appellate Division’s Second Department, to lead the New York State Court Unified System.
“There appears to be a great possibility that Justice LaSalle would represent a continuation of the unacceptable status quo that has sullied the reputation of our state’s highest court and ruled inconsistently with the values held dear by New Yorkers,” Gianaris tweeted Thursday.
Gianaris is the highest ranking Democrat in the Senate to come out against LaSalle so far, and his vote makes it increasingly difficult for Hochul to push the nomination over the finish line.
In a statement, the governor said, "Judge LaSalle is a highly qualified, experienced, and respected jurist, and his historic nomination deserves a full hearing and confirmation process."
"I expect that the Senate will fulfill their constitutional duties and engage in a robust, fair process. I know that Judge LaSalle is the best candidate for the job, and I believe that when Senators hear from him directly, they will agree," Hochul added.
At least a dozen Democrats have said they would vote against moving LaSalle’s nomination forward, including state Sens. Jabari Brisport, Julia Salazar, Rachel May, as well as state Sen.-elect Kristen Gonzalez.
Senate and Assembly leadership rarely bring an issue to the floor for a vote if it doesn’t have the votes needed by the ruling majority to pass. With a dozen state senators already publicly announcing that they wouldn't support Hochul's pick, this means Democrats don't have the 32 votes required to move LaSalle's nomination forward.
Following Gianaris’ announcement, state Sen. Jessica Ramos also came out against LaSalle.
This story was updated to include a comment from the governor.