New York's Hochul, Ohio's DeWine both pick conservative prosecutors for state high court openings
I honestly don't even know.
On Thursday afternoon, two governors announced conservative, longtime prosecutors for vacancies on their state’s respective highest courts — appointments that would lock in conservative majorities on those courts.
This might not be all that surprising if one of the governors wasn’t newly re-elected New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, who governs a state with Democratic majorities in both chambers — including the Senate responsible for confirming the nomination.
The response to Hochul’s nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle — who spent more than a dozen years as a prosecutor — to be the next chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals was swift and harsh, as detailed in multiple reports:
Kathy Hochul’s Nominee for New York’s Top Judge Is an Absolute Disaster for Democrats (Alex Sammon and Mark Joseph Stern, Slate)
Kathy Hochul Pushes New York’s Highest Court to the Right (Daniel Nichanian, Bolts)
Hochul Picks Hector LaSalle for Chief Judge. Progressives Fear Return to Conservative Era. (Sam Mellins, New York Focus)
Why the opposition? As Sammon and Stern put it bluntly:
Hochul declared that she would seek a nominee who would transform the court into a progressive counterweight to the far-right U.S. Supreme Court.
On Thursday, however, she did the exact opposite ….
Some of the specifics of the opposition to LaSalle, described by Nichanian, were laid out by a group of law professors:
Last week, a group of 46 law professors released a joint letter raising concerns about LaSalle due to what they described as his “activist conservative jurisprudence” and his “cavalier attitude towards reproductive rights, hostility to organized labor, and a worrying insensitivity to due process.”
“He’s put his judicial philosophy out there, on paper, and it strikes me he is to the right of the majority of New Yorkers,” Steve Zeidman, a professor at CUNY law school who signed onto that letter, told Bolts on Thursday.
“This is someone who is less concerned with individual civil liberties, and more concerned with siding with the government and corporations,” Zeidman added.
The nomination could be in jeopardy.
By Friday afternoon, nine state senators had already announced their opposition to LaSalle, as Mellins tweeted:
This will certainly be a developing story, with more to come in the days and weeks ahead.
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BUCKEYE COURT SHIFT: In Ohio, while Gov. Mike DeWine’s naming of Joe Deters — a longtime prosecutor and strong supporter of the death penalty — to the Ohio Supreme Court was not as ideologically surprising, it will have have ramifications in an increasingly, darker red state.
Namely, the appointment will shift the state’s high court to the right — leaving lawmakers and statewide officials less accountable for their actions in the new year.
As the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Laura Bischoff reported:
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor leaves the court on Dec. 31. She was ineligible to run for reelection due to age limits in the Ohio Constitution. Justice Sharon Kennedy moves up to lead the court in January. Deters will serve the remainder of Kennedy's current term and would be eligible to seek reelection in two years.
While O’Connor is a Republican, she voted with the three Democrats on the court in a handful of cases — including redistricting cases. Her replacement by Deters on the court locks in a 4-3 conservative majority.
Due to Deters’s age, he would be eligible to serve one full term if he chooses to do so and wins.
The Ohio appointment, as with LaSalle’s nomination in New York, did nonetheless result in its own questions. As Bischoff wrote:
Unlike with previous vacancies on the high court, DeWine did not convene a screening committee to vet potential appointees.
Additionally, News 5 Cleveland’s Morgan Trau highlighted other questions — about Deters’s lack of judicial experience and family connections to DeWine:
Nonetheless, Deters will now be serving on the Ohio Supreme Court in the new year.
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