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Hector LaSalle nomination voted down after hours long Judiciary Committee hearing

Hector LaSalle answers questions from NY Senate Judiciary Committee (Mark Zwinak)
Hector LaSalle answers questions from NY Senate Judiciary Committee (Mark Zwinak)
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In a highly anticipated day at the Capitol, Governor Kathy Hochul's Chief Judge nominee Hector LaSalle answered questions from NY Senate Judiciary Committee members for several hours on Wednesday.

LaSalle's nomination has been controversial, as members of the Democratic party have been divided on their support for the Appellate Division Justice, some saying his record would make the court more conservative moving forward.

The committee repeatedly questioned LaSalle regarding his decision in a case regarding Cablevision and its communication workers. Some labor unions have protested against the LaSalle nomination in connection with that case.

"Any suggestion that I'm anti-labor, anti-union, is absolutely untrue" LaSalle said during the hearing. "When people say I'm anti-labor because of the Cablevision decision, it's a characterization in order to derail a nomination, but not a characterization of who I am."

However in a late afternoon vote just under 5 hours later, the nomination was voted lost with the Senate having 2 votes in favor, 10 opposed, 7 went without recommendation. In total, the vote count went 10-9 against sending LaSalle to the floor for a full Senate vote.

Governor Hochul responded, claiming that she believed the outcome was predetermined, "Several Senators stated how they were going to vote before the hearing even began - including those who were recently given seats on the newly expanded Judiciary Committee."

"Today, New Yorkers had the opportunity to hear directly from Judge LaSalle, and what they heard was an affirmation of his commitment to fairness and justice above all else. He also shared his personal background and views, including his deeply held support for organized labor and unequivocal belief in the right to an abortion. Judge LaSalle demonstrated exactly why he is the right person for this role - because of his extensive experience, judicial temperament and integrity."

In the days leading up to the hearing, Governor Hochul continued to defend her nomination of LaSalle, saying she was willing to do whatever she needed, including sue, to get it through the Judiciary Committee.

Following the hearing, Judiciary Committee chair Sen (D) Brad Hoylman-Sigal said he didn't believe the Governor had grounds to push through the nomination of Lasalle in that way.

"I think it is a mistaken notion," Hoylman-Sigal said. "I think it is a use of time that in the session frankly we don't have."

State Senate Majority Leader (D) Andrea Stewart-Cousins also spoke following the hearing, saying the Democratic party was looking for a candidate that would shape the court in a different way moving forward.

"The conference was looking for someone who will change the trajectory of the court," Stewart-Cousins said. "That was stated before the nominee or the list."

Capital Region Senator Neil Breslin (D) was undecided prior to the hearing, but was one of 10 Democrats to vote against the movement of LaSalle to the floor. Breslin says this process was longer and more scrutinized than most because of the recent US Supreme Court decisions.

"I've had more material than I've ever had for a judge selection, all the years I've been here," Breslin said. "We've seen so many judges placed on the [US Supreme Court] who do other things, and it affects the lives of everyone in our country. So it makes it more serious concerning everything from abortion rights to criminal procedures, so it's very important for us to be diligent.

Two Democrats voted in favor of Justice LaSalle, Luis Sepuveda and Kevin Thomas. All six Republicans and one Democrat, Jamaal Bailey, also voted in favor, but without recommendation.

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Republican Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt released a statement following the decision, saying "Today, the Judiciary Committee failed to follow its Constitutional responsibility to allow the nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle to proceed to a full Senate vote. In contrast, the radical majority members of the Judiciary Committee put their far-left politics ahead of their obligation to the people of New York, effectively blocking Justice LaSalle from becoming the first Latino Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. We believe this nomination is due consideration by the full Senate, where it should be considered with an open mind based on his qualifications, not politics."

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