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Morning Spew

Kathy Hochul Thinks New York’s Ready for Another Anti-Labor, Anti-Abortion Judge

New York’s Democrats prepare once again to step on a rake.

10:19 AM EST on December 23, 2022

A new judge has been chosen. (Hell Gate)

Following the national embarrassment that was New York's failed redistricting process, made possible by a conservative bloc on the state's highest court that were all appointed by Democrats, you would think that Governor Kathy Hochul would make sure of a few things when appointing a new chief judge to lead the Court of Appeals. 

First off, with an "Imperial Supreme Court" rewriting constitutional rights on the fly in D.C., the state's own courts are now tasked with protecting New Yorkers' abortion and labor rights. Perhaps she might want to nominate someone who cares about those issues! (She herself wrote in November, "We are now relying on our state courts more than ever to protect our rights. We need our courts to defend against this Supreme Court's rapid retreat from precedent and continue our march toward progress.") On top of that, she could consider criminal justice groups' pleas and add a criminal defense attorney to the bench after years of it being stacked with prosecutors—even "crime bill" Joe Biden just appointed a public defender to the Supreme Court. And in terms of New York's never-ending redistricting saga, a more liberal judge could give New York's legislators another crack at creating district lines in 2024, allowing them to undo the handiwork of the state's conservative bloc. 

Hochul was given seven options by a non-partisan panel; it would make sense for Hochul to choose possibly not the most left-wing, but someone who wouldn't just hand the three conservative judges currently serving on the court power once more. 

She did none of the above.

On Thursday, Hochul announced her nomination for the top spot on the New York Court of Appeals—Second Department Judge Hector LaSalle, a former prosecutor with rulings against unions, abortion providers, and the right for criminal defendants to challenge the constitutionality of their arrests. LaSalle, who progressives had noted as being the most conservative of the options set before Hochul, would throw the court back into the hands of a reactionary quartet, who could, in coordination with the Supreme Court, leave New Yorkers with severely diminished constitutional rights to organize, control their own bodies, and challenge the power of law enforcement. 

Already, the backlash to LaSalle has been swift, with several state senators (the state senate will ultimately need to confirm LaSalle), already saying they'll oppose his nomination. On top of that, the AFL-CIO and CWA have announced their opposition

Still, progressives shouldn't get too excited about the prospect of LaSalle's nomination being derailed. This is Albany, after all—where the state senate just confirmed reactionary judge Madeline Singas to the bench last year. If LaSalle is confirmed, legislation in New York will be subject to a conservative veto until at least 2030. 

Hochul's decision has a lot of people scratching their heads. Why would an unpopular governor who barely survived a reactionary challenge further alienate the base of her own party? But that question rests on the assumption that Hochul and the Democrats lining up behind her appointment actually want to protect workers, bodily autonomy, and the right to challenge law enforcement in court. If you've been paying any attention over the past thirty years, it's quite clear that many of them really don't.

Some links to get the fire started: 

  • Would be great if New York was able to implement its ambitious plan to confront climate change without it getting struck down by its own high court. But it just might! Anyways, Jamaica Bay has swallowed up Broad Channel during today's winter storm.
  • Legislators reconvened in Albany for the first time in months…to give themselves a raise
  • Thousands of New York nurses have authorized a strike as staffing issues and low pay continue to hound New York’s most "essential workers."
  • Bishop Lamor Whitehead…folks, he just won't let a federal indictment stop him from starting shit
  • We're still untangling if there's anything true about the life story of New York's newest congressmember.
  • The chair of the City Council's transportation committee has a need for speed.
  • Thousands of rent-stabilized apartments are vanishing from the market. The CITY found that landlords are just lying to both their tenants and the state about the regulated status of many apartments. And tenants often move out before they get their day in court to prove otherwise. 
  • And finally, a programming note—Morning Spew will be taking a break until the New Year, but Hell Gate will still be publishing some stories over the next week. Enjoy the holidays, stay warm, and we hope you'll continue to support worker-owned local journalism well into 2023! Might we interest you in some stocking stuffer subscriptions
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