I can think of no greater or more satisfying Christmas present than left-wing state senators and their allied heads exploding over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle to be New York’s next Chief Judge of the Court of the Appeals.
From the moment former Chief Judge DiFiore announced her retirement, the left sought to turn filling her vacancy on the Court of Appeals into an ideological battleground. Led by Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, progressives denounced DiFiore and her so-called four-judge “conservative bloc.”
They vowed to remake the court and promised to block any nominee who didn’t possess the right progressive bona fides. Gianaris & Co. didn’t want any moderate jurists who didn’t drink the democratic socialist/woke/defund the police Kool-Aid. And they certainly didn’t want anyone who was a former prosecutor and fought for crime victims.
Brooklyn state Senator Julia Salazar — whose biographical fakeries rival those of Rep-elect George Santos — told New York Focus that she was “[d]eeply disappointed in the Governor’s nomination of someone with a clear anti-union, fundamentally conservative record.”
A so-called Coalition of Progressive Groups opposed to LaSalle specifically cited his former career as a prosecutor as a bias that would “undermine New Yorkers’ civil liberties.” None of these claims are true. Neither is the assertion that Judge LaSalle is anti-abortion. The cases are cherry-picked and the facts have been deliberately misrepresented.
There is no legitimate case against Judge LaSalle’s confirmation as the COA’s next chief judge. His critics — who bleat that democracy is stake — are no different than a lynch mob that only respects the judicial outcomes it agrees with.
By all accounts, LaSalle is a whip-smart Puerto Rican judge whose judicial history, temperament and instinct shows him to follow the law, instead of political ideology. This small mob of vocal illiberal hypocritical progressives wants judges who will bend the law to fit their political and ideological learnings. If it’s wrong on the conservative right, then it’s wrong on the left.
Unfortunately, there are Senate Democrats who worry that if their leftist colleagues abandon Judge LaSalle it will enable Republicans to provide the votes needed to confirm him — thus enabling the GOP to make further advances among Latino voters.
The chief judge’s role isn’t to be the darling of either party. The role of the chief judge is to provide justice to the people of New York. It would be a slap in the face of the Puerto Rican community and other newly rising Latino groups if a few close-minded political ideologues thwarted Judge LaSalle’s confirmation as the the state’s first Hispanic Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.
As a black Democrat who earned his stripes working in the political trenches in a predominantly Puerto Rican community to achieve greater diversity and Hispanic representation in legislative bodies and in the judiciary, I’m immensely proud of Judge Hector LaSalle and his history-making moment. To that end, I’d urge Republican state senators to join their Democratic colleagues in confirming Judge LaSalle. It’s important that moderate Democrats and Republicans in the Senate come together in support of the rule of law and facts, not political ideology.
Gov. Hochul did the right thing in nominating Judge Hector LaSalle. With Judge LaSalle leading the Court of Appeals, New Yorkers will see justice done.
Post editorial board member Michael Benjamin is a former Assemblyman.
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