ALBANY - Three former Court of Appeals judges have joined the chorus of supporters urging the state Senate to confirm law professor Jenny Rivera to New York's highest court.
Joseph Bellacosa, Stewart Hancock Jr. and Howard Levine wrote letters to support Rivera's nomination.
On Feb. 4, the same day Rivera weathered an aggressive Judiciary Committee hearing in which her qualifications, experience and ideology came under attack, three retired judgesJoseph Bellacosa, Stewart Hancock Jr. and Howard Levineeach wrote to the committee and Chairman John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, in support of Rivera, a New York City University School of Law professor. The three letters are among dozens sent to the Judiciary Committee regarding the controversial nomination.
Nearly all of the letters, many from colleagues, students and former students, praise Rivera's intellect, scholarship and temperament. But several raise the same concerns of many Republican senators about Rivera's lack of judicial experience, relatively slim experience as a practitioner, narrow academic focus on social justice issues and liberal ideology.
Rivera's nomination for the high court by Governor Andrew Cuomo is the most controversial and polarizing since the Court of Appeals became an appointive bench in 1977. For the first time, the Judiciary Committee declined to endorse a governor's nominee and advanced the matter to the Senate without a recommendation.
Rivera's candidacy was supported by all 11 Democrats on the committee, but eight Republicans voted against her, one was absent and three declined to take a position but advanced the nomination. Republican lawmakers said their vote was in part a message to the Democratic governor that the Judiciary Committee will not rubber-stamp his judicial nominations (NYLJ, Feb. 5).
Further, on Feb. 6, Senator Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, said in a press release that there are at least 11 Hispanic judges who would have been a better choice than Rivera to succeed Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick (NYLJ, Feb. 7). Ciparick, the first Hispanic to sit on the high court, retired on Dec. 31.
In a radio interview on The Capitol Pressroom, a public broadcasting program in Central New York, Cuomo said he is confident Rivera will be confirmed when the Senate considers her nomination on Feb. 11.
"I think at the end of the day Jenny Rivera is going to be [confirmed] by the state Senate for the Court of Appeals," Cuomo said.