Family, friends and state lawmakers gathered Tuesday for a ceremony celebrating the ascent of Judge Rowan Wilson, who was sworn in last spring as the first Black chief judge of the state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.
He had previously served as an associate judge on the court.
Wilson was officially sworn in immediately after his confirmation by the Legislature last April had and has been exercising the full powers of the post, but Tuesday's ceremony was intended to bring more pomp to a landmark moment.
Wilson was Gov. Kathy Hochul's second nominee for the position. Her first pick, Hector LaSalle, was rejected by the state Senate earlier this year after opposition from labor unions and progressive advocates concerned with his record.
Wilson enjoyed much stronger support and was confirmed 40-19. Some Democrats and liberals who saw him as more friendly on civil rights, labor and environmental issues. As an associate judge, Wilson had also dissented in an important decision last year in which the court majority found that the state's Democratic leadership had followed an unconstitutional process in drawing up new congressional maps.
Wilson is the state's first Black chief judge, something highlighted by the governor during the ceremony.
"This is a milestone, but that is not why he is sitting here today," she said. "It is not why he was selected. He has demonstrated through his years already on this court. The intellect, the understanding, the ability to write in such a powerful way, and to really make decisions that matter."
Wilson joined the Court of Appeals in 2017.
"To Gov. Hochul, the executive branch and to members of the state Legislature, I can assure you that checks and balances means independent, not adversarious, and my team and I look forward to working with you collaboratively to improve the lives of all New Yorkers," Wilson said.
With Wilson moving up to chief judge, Caitlin Halligan was previously sworn in as an associate judge to replace him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.