Marvin Mayfield and representatives from more than 130 groups rallied outside the Court of Appeals on Thursday to appeal for a more liberal chief justice. Photo courtesy of the Center for Community Alternatives
A group of protesters held a rally outside the Albany Court of Appeals on Thursday as they attacked the court’s recent right-wing rulings and called on the court’s next chief justice to be more socially conscious.
Chief Justice Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has served in the role since 2016 but resigned three years earlier last summer and will be replaced by Governor Kathy Hochul.
As New York State has taken a political step to the left in recent years, the Court of Appeals has been criticized by many for being too conservative. Former Chief Justice DiFiore, current Acting Chief Justice Anthony Cannataro, the Hon. Michael Garcia and the Hon. Madeline Singas formed a four-person bloc who voted together in 96 of the 98 decisions released during the court’s last term.
“Under our last Chief Justice, our state’s highest court — the one we need to protect our rights when the Supreme Court of the United States undermines those rights — has stood on the side of the powerful and against us all,” he said. said Marvin Mayfield. , director of the Center for Community Alternatives. “We need a Chief Justice who has demonstrated a commitment to preserving, protecting and advancing the civil and social rights of all New Yorkers, who shares the values of New Yorkers and brings professional diversity to the Court. .
The main point of discussion at the rally was the need for a chief justice who is not a former prosecutor, as four of the past seven have been. Only a small percentage of all Court of Appeal judges over the past 50 years come from legal services or public defense and of the current judges, none have worked in public defense, housing court , immigration court or treated civil rights cases.
“Being chief justice at this time is a tremendous opportunity for New York City,” said Peter Martin, director of the Center for Community Alternatives. “Former Governor Cuomo filled the Court of Appeals with former prosecutors, and his rulings reflected that. In recent years, the Court has repeatedly changed state law to favor the powerful – the government, corporations, landlords, etc. – to the detriment of all other New Yorkers.
Those present at the rally explained that they felt the court was slowing down the docket and giving notices that were often too short. Critics have also explained that the court expanded police power and furthered powerful interests. In Aybar v. Aybar, the court ruled that Ford and Goodyear could not be sued in New York despite being sued for a car and tires that were both sold in the state, a example, critics explained, of a single judgment in favor of powerful interests over those of ordinary New Yorkers.
The Court of Appeals is New York’s highest court and is the final arbiter of disputes related to state law. The chief justice of the court is responsible for administering and managing the court, has policy-making powers over the system, and controls the state’s $3 billion court budget. They can also reassign judges throughout the court system and help determine the requirements to become a lawyer in the state.
Currently, the Commission on Judicial Nominations is reviewing nominations for the state’s next Chief Justice. He will narrow his list to seven candidates by November 25 and Governor Hochul will choose from that list.
Lawyers for Thursday’s rally said they were waiting for the list of seven candidates to be released before publicly endorsing a judge for chief justice.