The nomination of non-judges to the Court of Appeals is rare, but not unheard of.
Judith Kaye, the first woman to serve on the court and the first woman to become chief judge, had no judicial experience when she was appointed by Cuomo's father, Mario, in 1983.
Robert Smith (See Profile), a current member of the court, was a lawyer and not a judge before being selected by Governor George Pataki in 2004.
However, Rivera would be the first appointed Court of Appeals judge to come to the court directly from the faculty of a law school and the first CUNY Law faculty member to sit on the Court of Appeals.
In July 2009, Rivera authored parts of a report presented by the National Hispanic Bar Association urging U.S. Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama's nomination of Sonya Sotomayor as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Rivera clerked for Sotomayor in 1993 and 1994, when the judge sat in the Southern District.
Sotomayor was also on the hiring committee for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund when it appointed Rivera in 1988 for what turned out to be her four-year stint as associate counsel.
Also with Sotomayor's help, Rivera will receive the 2013 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association's Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession next month at the ABA's midyear meeting in Dallas. In a letter recommending Rivera for the award, Sotomayor called her the "ultimate change maker."
"She has a deep and abiding commitment to social justice and an understanding and unwavering belief in the power of our laws to transform lives and make opportunities happen," Sotomayor wrote.
Among the awards Rivera has received from the New York State Bar Association is its 2012 Diversity Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award. State Bar President Seymour James Jr. said Rivera would bring "keen intellect, insightful legal scholarship and a commitment to equal justice" to the Court of Appeals.