New York’s top state judge will step down on Aug. 31, leaving with more than two years left on her term and clearing the way for Gov. Kathy Hochul to name a successor.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, a Democrat, served as the state’s top-ranking jurist since 2016, when she was appointed to the role by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo after serving as Westchester County district attorney. As chief judge, DiFiore led not only the seven-member Court of Appeals but also the state’s entire unified court system, a major administrative role that made her the face of the judiciary.

In a letter sent Monday to her colleagues, DiFiore said she will soon “move on to the next chapter in life.” She did not specify what that entails.

“As Chief Judge, I set out to bring operational and decisional excellence to every level of our court system while leading our state’s high court in developing a strong, predictable body of law to guide our communities, our economy and the personal and professional lives of our citizenry,” DiFiore wrote.

Her pending resignation was first reported by The New York Times.

DiFiore was confirmed by the state Senate in February 2016, and would have reached the Court of Appeals’ mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2025. She oversaw a court that, despite being made up entirely of Democratic appointees, was far more moderate than the legislative branch, which has generally become more progressive in recent years.

One of the most significant decisions of DiFiore’s term came three months ago, when she wrote the majority opinion overturning New York’s Democrat-drawn congressional and state Senate lines, ruling the state Legislature didn’t follow the proper procedures for drawing the districts after a non-partisan panel failed to reach consensus.

Her opinion also found Democrats unconstitutionally gerrymandered the congressional lines to their benefit.

The ruling led to new lines, less favorable to Democrats, that were drawn by a court-appointed special master, along with a primary election shuffle that saw the congressional and Senate races pushed back to August from June.

Now, Hochul will soon accept applicants for the pending opening, after which point the state Commission on Judicial Nomination will present her with finalists.

From there, Hochul will pick a replacement subject to state Senate confirmation. That won't happen until January, when the Legislature is due back in Albany, unless Hochul calls lawmakers back to the Capitol sooner.

In a statement, Hochul praised DiFiore for her management of the court system during the COVID-19 pandemic, which hugely disrupted the normal, in-person operations of the judicial branch.

"I thank Judge DiFiore for her years of service and look forward to reviewing the recommendations of the Commission on Judicial Nomination as we work to appoint new leadership to the Court," Hochul said.

Within hours of DiFiore's resignation, top lawmakers and advocates were urging Hochul to pick a progressive-leaning chief judge as a way to combat the Court of Appeals' moderate-to-conservative leaning side.

"In light of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and now news of the New York Chief Judge stepping down, it is more important than ever that Governor Hochul nominates and the Senate confirms a progressive chief judge," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie tweeted.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Court of Appeals has become "increasingly out of touch" with New Yorkers on issues like criminal justice and tenants' rights.

"I’m resolute that the Chief Judge's replacement must be a jurist who will lead our Court of Appeals in a much-needed course correction that uplifts the vulnerable and ensures equity and justice for all," he said.

This story has been updated with additional comment.