First Department Vacancies—New Developments

Across the East River in the First Department the situation is murkier. Several judges and political sources told me last October that the governor’s screening panel had found several candidates “highly qualified” to fill the three vacancies on that court. I was also told that two Bronx justices had not received that rating.

Under the executive order Governor Andrew Cuomo issued in April, 2011 continuing the panel process, he may consider for appointment only candidates his screening committee rates as highly qualified. There are separate screening committees for each of the four departments of the Appellate Division.

There have been two noteworthy developments since my earlier reporting. One is, according to several judges, that there was an outpouring of support for one of the two Bronx justices, Justice John A. Barone. The other judge said not to have been approved was Justice Mark Friedlander.

 Second, the governor’s office published a new notice in the New York Law Journal shortly before Christmas soliciting additional applications for the First Department. The original notice had been published in early September and had set Sept. 30 as the application deadline.

The effect of the reopening is unclear. Two judges told me that the Governor’s office takes the view that all candidates from the first round are still in play and that there was no need for first round candidates to reapply in response to the Dec. 19 solicitation.

According to the information that I received in October, among the judges ranked highly qualified were Bronx Justice Robert E. Torres  and Manhattan Justices Eileen Bransten and Barbara S. Kapnick, both of whom are assigned to the Commercial Division, and Paul G. Feinman, who sits in an individual assignment part. The First Department handles appeals from both Manhattan and the Bronx.

Mr. Cuomo has four other vacancies to fill: a presiding justice slot in the Third Department and three associate justice openings in the Fourth.

The governor’s office has so far not responded to requests for comment.

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