Focus on Writings
Senators also referenced Rivera's academic writings, with Bonacic and former Judiciary Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, suggesting that her work was unclear.
"In research and publications, you say 'critical race feminism' and, I may not even pronounce this right, 'paradigmatic challenges to race-based discrimination theory and practice," Bonacic said. "What does that mean? Please tell me."
Rivera explained that the title was from a course she taught.
"What I was trying to communicate with that title…was the different ways we can approach problems using the rule of law," Rivera said. "We need not limit it to any particular approach that has been historically successful or unsuccessful. Changing the paradigm, that is what it refers todifferent ways of thinking about issues."
Rivera said it is the role of a scholar to "think outside the box" and challenge students to do the same.
"Yes, I am very passionate in my writings and I was a zealous advocate for my clients when I practiced law," Rivera said. "Much of my writing has expressed my passion for justice, fairness and equality by focusing on the particular and unique conditions of Latinas but I consider my work scholarly work and other work to be about equality generally. The issues facing Latino communities are the issues facing all communities, to be treated fairly and justly, to not be treated in a way that is discriminatory, to not be the target of violence. These are critical issues for every one of us."
DeFrancisco, himself a practicing attorney, spoke of the need for clarity in judicial decisions, and suggested Rivera's writings are too frequently opaque.
Three witnesses spoke on Rivera's behalf: Michael Jaffe, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association; Seymour James, president of the New York State Bar Association; and CUNY Law School Dean Michelle Anderson. All referred to Rivera's breadth of experience, integrity and intelligence.
Bonacic said the one-day delay in voting on the nomination would "allow every member to digest some of the things that were said today, to review the exhibits, maybe to review the writings of Ms. Rivera."
He said the panel, on which Republicans hold a 12-11 majority, will vote this morning at 10 a.m., but declined to speculate on how the vote will go.
"I don't want to be letting you know right now how we're leaning," Bonacic said. "You've got to see if there is going to be 12 members that want this nominee to go forward to be confirmed on the Senate floor. But I think there's been sufficient concerns raised by these writings and her testimony today that will give people pause to reflect."
Bonacic said he is concerned with Rivera's "lack of legal experience as a practicing attorney" and said Governor Andrew Cuomo "is asking this body to make a leap of faith from someone in academia to the highest court."
A negative vote from the committee would be a stunning and unprecedented rebuke of Cuomo. Since the Court of Appeals became an appointed court in the late 1970s, the Senate has never rejected a governor's nominee.
@|John Caher can be contacted at email@example.com. Joel Stashenko contributed to this report.