Gov. Kathy Hochul's embattled nominee to lead the state's top court and its judiciary branch will speak directly to state lawmakers on a key panel that could either advance him to the full state Senate or sink his confirmation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Justice Hector LaSalle's bid to become the next chief judge on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
The hearing comes as opponents of LaSalle's nomination have urged state Senate lawmakers to vote against him, pointing to a judicial record they believe shows LaSalle would further tilt the Court of Appeals to the political right.
But supporters of LaSalle's bid, including the governor, have stood by him publicly. LaSalle would be the first Latino judge to lead New York's top court.
Multiple Democrats in the state Senate have said they would oppose LaSalle's confirmation as progressive advocates have pointed to LaSalle's background as a former prosecutor. Some labor unions have also opposed LaSalle's nomination, pointing to a case in which he supported a ruling that allowed union leaders to be sued by their employer.
The level of opposition to a judicial nominee is unprecedented in New York politics. But progressives over the last several years have complained about the nominations and approvals of judges with prosecutorial backgrounds to the state Court of Appeals and had previously signaled concerns with LaSalle's record.
Opponents have also taken a broader interest in state courts with a conservative majority in firm control of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been uneasy with their colleagues announcing their opposition before LaSalle presents his own case to them in public.
Republicans, who hold the minority in the state Senate, have said they are open to supporting LaSalle's confirmation. Two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee — Sens. Jamaal Bailey of the Bronx and Neil Breslin of Albany — said this week they were undecided on LaSalle's nomination and waiting to hear from him at the hearing.
Lawmakers this month moved to expand the Judiciary Committee to 19 members.