Kathy Hochul's Big Risk
A pick for New York's top court could go down in flames
Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, narrowly won re-election last month, beating back a conservative Republican by just six points. Though her campaign was roundly criticized and seemed to cost Democrats in key House races, she still managed to secure herself a four-year term and with it—in theory at least—some political capital. After replacing the disgraced Andrew Cuomo in 2021, she is now, in the eyes of the electorate and many political elites, a full-fledged governor who can begin to sketch out her own vision for the state.
On Thursday, she did just this, announcing her pick for chief judge to the Court of Appeals, New York’s version of the Supreme Court. Unlike the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals is mostly ignored by the public and was, until recent times, not even much of a cause for the activist left. But progressives, in recent years, have begun paying attention to the court’s decisions, condemning the moderates and conservatives whom Cuomo appointed. Court of Appeals judges serve 14-year terms and face mandatory retirement ages, allowing each new governor, over time, to reshape jurisprudence in the state. Janet DiFiore, a former Republican prosecutor, was Cuomo’s chief judge, a close ally who decided to retire this year. Court watchers have wondered whether Hochul would pick a judge in DiFiore’s mold or attempt to wrench the court in a more liberal direction.
Hochul’s choice, a judge named Hector LaSalle, confirms her administration would rather stick to Cuomo-style judges—relative conservatives, either Democrats or outright Republicans, who are skeptical of criminal justice reform, tenant power, and even unions.