ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday nominated Jenny Rivera, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law with no prior experience as a judge, to fill a state Court of Appeals seat left vacant by the Dec. 31 retirement of Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick.
An announcement from Cuomo's office praised Rivera, 51, as a defender of legal rights of all New Yorkers who would "make our state a fairer, more just place to live."
Rivera was a special deputy state attorney general for civil rights when Cuomo was attorney general in 2007 and 2008. Since 2008, she has been a CUNY Law professor and founder and director of the school's Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality.
Rivera said in a statement released by Cuomo's office that she was "deeply honored" to be the governor's choice.
"As a member of the Court of Appeals, I will work each day to uphold the laws of the state and advocate for fairness and justice," she pledged.
If confirmed by the state Senate, Rivera will become the second Hispanic to sit on the Court of Appeals after Ciparick.
"I think it's a terrific appointment," said Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile). "Professor Rivera has a wonderful reputation for her legal and academic skills and her background is ideally suited to the court. She has spent her entire professional life in the pursuit of justice and I couldn't be more pleased with the governor's sound judgment in making such an outstanding choice for the court."
Michelle Anderson, dean of the CUNY School of Law, said "emails were flying" at the school as elated colleagues spread the news of Rivera's nomination. "It is a loss for CUNY Law, but it is a substantial win for the courts of New York," Anderson said. "Jenny has a profound commitment to equality and is a person of extraordinary integrity. She is someone who insists on fairness in process and substance and someone who is a very serious scholar and a serious faculty member."
Students, Anderson said, view Rivera with a healthy mixture of reverence and "slight fear," because she has a reputation as a very tough but fair mentor.
Albany Law School Professor Vincent Bonventre, who has written and commented on the court, said Rivera brings with her a "paper trail of scholarship devoted to domestic violence, feminist jurisprudence, equality and the upward mobility" of Hispanics.