Four of the seven candidates to lead New York's top court and its judicial system were given the highest possible rating by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association — ratings Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to consider as she weighs her nominee for the post. 

Hochul has until Dec. 23 to nominate a replacement for former Chief Judge Janet DiFiore; the nominee will be considered for confirmation by the Democratic-led state Senate. 

“For over 50 years, both the New York State Bar Association and NYSTLA have provided a valuable service to New Yorkers by vetting judicial nominees, and I am grateful to them for their rigorous processes during this critical time for our state’s judiciary,” said State Senate Judiciary Chair Brad Hoylman. “This slate of nominees represents a diverse range of professional backgrounds and judicial philosophies. With this vacancy, New York has the opportunity to place a true advocate for the people on its highest judicial seat – someone who will lead our Court of Appeals to uplift the vulnerable and ensure equity and justice for all.” 

The group on Monday released its ratings of the slate of seven potential nominees submitted by New York's Commission on Judicial Nominations, finding Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, Judge Hector LaSalle, Judge Jeffrey Oing and Yale Law School Professor Abbe Gluck are considered "highly qualified and highly recommended." 

Legal Aid attorney-in-charge Corey Stoughton and Judge Anthony Cannataro were both rated highly qualified and recommended, while Albany Law School Dean Alicia Oulette was rated qualified. 

“With the scales tipped toward corporate interests, New Yorkers deserve a chief judge who will be a champion of the civil justice system and ensure that everyday people can pursue accountability when they experience harm. It was a privilege to speak and meet with each of the nominees throughout this process and I am confident that each is well-poised to serve the people of New York as the state’s next chief judge,” said NYSTLA President Thomas Valet.

Who leads New York's top court, the Court of Appeals, is being closely watched in legal and advocacy circles.

Progressive advocates and some Democratic lawmakers are urging Hochul to pick someone with a "diverse" background in their legal career after the confirmation of former prosecutors for the bench in the last decade. A key credential for some advocates has been experience as a public defender for a potential chief judge nominee given the array of criminal justice issues that come before the court. 

Hochul herself has said she wants someone New Yorkers can be proud of, but also a chief judge with the ability to manage and oversee the state's court administration. 

"This chief judge has to have the experience and ability to bring back a system that has been shuttered almost," Hochul said last month. "That has a collateral impact on criminal justice."