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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Home Government LETTER: Senator Mayer Explains No Vote on Chief Judge

LETTER: Senator Mayer Explains No Vote on Chief Judge

Responding to Rye resident and retired as a government attorney Mitchell Krapes’ letter on January 28th concerning her vote against the appointment of Justice Hector LaSalle to become chief judge of the Court of Appeals, State Senator Shelley Mayer explains her reasoning behind her decision.

The letter:

By New York State Senator Shelley Mayer

Shelley Mayer, New York State 37th District State Senate
(PHOTO: State Senator Shelley Mayer of the 37th District represents the City of Rye.)

On Wednesday, January 18, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave Justice Hector LaSalle a thoughtful, full, and fair hearing. The issues raised in the hearing were broad and expansive; and the questions posed by my colleagues and myself over the more than 4 hours of the hearing allowed the Justice to fully explain his judicial philosophy. (I could not be there in person in the Hearing Room due to Covid, but drove to Albany to “check in” personally that day in order to cast a vote after the Committee hearing.) PJ LaSalle is an accomplished Judge, and my vote was not a personal critique of him, but rather the application of what I believe is my Constitutional duty of “advise and consent.” As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I voted on the nomination. The vote was 2 in favor of moving the nomination, 10 against, and 7 to move without recommendation. As a result, his nomination was defeated.

After reading many of his decisions, as well as Law Review articles and speaking with legal experts, my opinion is that Justice LaSalle’s record shows a consistent pattern of very narrow interpretation of our laws and the Constitution. Whether on labor issues, constitutional issues involving juror selection, First Amendment issues regarding advertising, or a range of other matters, the Judges’ decisions default to a most limited interpretation of our laws and Constitution, even when another decision was legally justified. For me, given the fact our Court of Appeals has been a 4-3 conservative court over the past several years, taking fewer cases and yet poised to decide the critical issues before us, this default position is not what we need at this moment. In addition, the US Supreme Court has removed some of our constitutional rights and taken us backwards. My belief is that at this moment in history, we need a Chief Judge who will ensure the highest Court’s decisions are based on a fair and broad interpretation of New York laws and the New York State Constitution, one that is consistent with legislative intent. The bills we have passed, expanding voting rights, environmental protections, civil rights, tenant rights and more all are subject to interpretation by the Court of Appeals. A limited and narrow interpretation would be inconsistent with what was intended when these laws were passed.

I am also deeply concerned about the operation of our huge court system from the perspective of our constituents, especially when they are at their most vulnerable at the “front end” of the judicial system. Whether it’s a speeding ticket, an order of protection, a custody and visitation matter or more, I am anxious for a Chief Justice who will fully commit to improving the operation of our court system in every town, village and city, who has a plan to make sure our system of justice – at the front end – works for everyone, whether they have a lawyer or not.

While I have great respect for Justice LaSalle and for all he has accomplished in his career, for these reasons and others, I voted “no” on this nomination. I look forward to considering a nomination from Governor Hochul that I, and my colleagues, can support and move forward to confirmation.

(Let me note that I appreciate the level of public engagement surrounding this appointment. I heard from hundreds of constituents. Irrespective of whether we agree or disagree, the perspectives and opinions of those I represent inform my positions and votes. I thank every constituent who contacted me and my office to express an opinion, whether we agreed or not.)


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