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Rowan D. Wilson Nominated to Top Spot on New York State’s Top Court

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently nominated Rowan D. Wilson to lead the New York State Court of Appeals. He currently serves as an Associate Justice of the Empire State’s highest court. If confirmed by state lawmakers, Wilson would be the first Black Chief Judge since the court was established in 1847.

The vacant seat on the bench was created when Chief Judge Janet M. DiFiore retired in August 2022. Anthony Cannataro has served as Acting Chief Judge since September 2022. In February 2023, Hector D. LaSalle, Presiding Justice of New York State’s Appellate Division-Second Judicial Department and Hochul’s previous Chief Judge nominee, was rejected during a floor vote in the New York State Senate. Democrats were concerned that LaSalle’s judicial record was right-leaning and not progressive enough on abortion and workers’ rights. It was the first time in New York’s history that lawmakers rejected a Chief Judge nominee.

In support of the current nominee, Hochul stated, “Judge Wilson’s sterling record of upholding justice and fairness makes him well-suited to lead the court at this critical time.” New York State’s Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Monday, April 17, 2023 to consider the nomination.

Rowan D. Wilson earned his B.A. degree from Harvard College and J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, and received a license to practice law in California and New York. From 1984 to 1986, he served as a judicial law clerk. Thereafter, Wilson joined Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City and was elected to the firm’s partnership in 1991. He served on the boards of several charitable and not-for-profit organizations and handled numerous pro bono matters while with the firm. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo nominated Wilson to serve as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals and the New York State Senate confirmed his nomination in 2017.

If Rowan D. Wilson is confirmed to serve as Chief Judge, New York State’s Senators will hold a hearing on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, to consider Governor Hochul’s nomination of Caitlin J. Halligan, Esq., to fill Wilson’s vacancy as Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals. Halligan received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and graduated from Georgetown University Law Center. She served as Law Clerk to Stephen G. Breyer, (Retired) Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She also served as head of the Internet Bureau in the Office of the New York State Attorney General, First Deputy Solicitor General for the State of New York, Solicitor General for the State of New York (2001-2007), and General Counsel to the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Halligan currently teaches at Harvard Law School and previously taught at Columbia Law School and Georgetown Law Center.

Governor Hochul also supported the appointment of Joseph A. Zayas, Associate Justice of the New York State Appellate Division-Second Department, to serve as Chief Administrative Judge and oversee the day-to-day operations of the New York State Unified Court System (UCS). As noted in its 2023 Fiscal Year Budget Request, which exceeded $2 billion, the UCS is among the largest, busiest, and most complex in the country. It employs approximately 15,000 nonjudicial staff and over 1,200 judges, in 62 counties, in more than 300 locations. The UCS consists of 11 trial courts, four Appellate Divisions, three Appellate Terms, and the Court of Appeals.


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