Several candidates of Hispanic heritage, who are prominent in the New York legal community, have applied for the New York Court of Appeals seat being vacated at the end of the year by Judge Carmen B. Ciparick, according to courthouse chatter.
Among the names in currency are Michael J. Garcia, a partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis; First Department Justices Rolando T. Acosta and Sallie Manzanet-Daniels; Jenny Rivera, a professor at CUNY Law School; and Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita Lopez-Torres.
In addition, several other First Department justices are said to be among the roughly sixty applicants seeking to succeed Judge Ciparick, the first and only Hispanic to have served on the court. They are said to be Justices Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Dianne T. Renwick and Rosalyn H. Richter.
None of the candidates mentioned above commented for this article.
Stephen P. Younger, the counsel to the New York State Commission on Nomination, declined to confirm or deny that any of those mentioned had applied, citing the confidentiality of the process. He did say, however, that the commission is pleased with the applications it has received and looks forward to reporting the results of its review to Mr. Cuomo on Dec. 1.
The commission must winnow the applicant pool down to between three and seven names. Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15, Mr. Cuomo must make his choice from the names on the commission’s list. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the New York State Senate.
Mr. Garcia, who clerked for former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye at the New York Court of Appeals from 1990-92, was U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York during former President George W. Bush’s second term. Justice
Acosta was in charge of enforcement at the New York City Human Rights Commission from 1988 to 1993. Ms. Rivera worked as a top civil rights aide to Mr. Cuomo when he was state Attorney General and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she sat in the Southern District of New York. Justice Manzanet-Daniels started her career with the Legal Aid Society, and Surrogate Lopez Torres was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that almost toppled the state system of electing Supreme Court justices.
A number of present and former judges report a widespread perception that a candidate of Hispanic heritage is likely to be appointed to replace Judge Ciparick. One former appellate judge said that to discern the most serious candidates “only tell me their last names.”
The nomination commission has been sensitive to criticism that candidates have shied away from applying out of a sense that there is an inside track. In a letter to the editor, published in the New York Law Journal on Aug. 7, Ms. Kaye, who now heads the commission, sought to counter complaints that in the recent past too few applications had been received because “people made assumptions about who the ultimate candidate would be and just didn’t bother applying.”
To counter that perception, Ms. Kaye stressed, “there are no preconceptions as to who will be on the list” given to the governor.
To encourage more applications, the commission for the first time this year hosted information sessions on the vacancy in cities around the state: Albany, Rochester and New York City. With as many as 60 applications, that effort has born fruit.