New York's legal community as well as lawmakers are weighing whether to consider changes to the way judges for the state's top court are considered and nominated to serve on the bench.
The considerations come after a key state Senate panel on Wednesday rejected the nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle to serve as the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, a remarkable and unprecedented move in the 40-year history of nominations to the top court.
The New York State Bar Association a day later announced it had formed a working group to review how judges are selected and nominated for the court.
Currently, judicial nominees are put through a vetting process conducted by a nominating commission composed of appointees from the governor, the courts, and the top leaders in the state Senate and Assembly. The commission provides a list of final recommendations to the governor, who nominates the candidate for state Senate confirmation.
"The Executive Committee reaffirms that the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are crucial to the administration of justice," the New York State Bar Association said in a statement. "It is of the utmost importance to public confidence that there is a fair process that allows the judiciary to operate independently and effectively."
The New York State Bar Association on Thursday in a separate announcement said LaSalle would receive the organization's "distinguished jurist" award.
The move to consider changing the nominating process comes after Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins indicated in an interview with WCNY's The Capitol Pressroom lawmakers would also be open to changing the process. Any wholesale overhaul of how judges are nominated to the court would likely have to be an amendment to the state's constitution.
"It is certainly worth having that conversation," Stewart-Cousins said last week. "I think people would be served better with a different type of process and something that's more nimble than we have now."
What had once been a rubber-stamp process in Albany was upended this week when Democrats voting down LaSalle's nomination; Hochul has not ruled out a potential lawsuit to force a full vote on the state Senate floor.
Opposition to LaSalle from some labor unions and progressive advocates that support changes to New York's criminal justice system ultimately helped to sink the nomination at the Judiciary Committee meeting this week.
LaSalle and his supporters have argued his record has been distorted by critics.