ALBANY - After a whirlwind, historic and stressful week seeking confirmation for a seat on the state's highest court, Jenny Rivera left the Capitol Feb. 11 and embarked on what is likely to be a whirlwind, historic and stressful new career: associate judge of the Court of Appeals.
Rivera, 52, who was confirmed by the Senate several days after the Judiciary Committee advanced her nomination without an endorsement, was slated to hear her first batch of cases Tuesday, with more coming Wednesday and Thursday.
The docket includes a variety of civil and criminal appeals raising issues that may be new to Rivera, a City University of New York law professor with little experience practicing law and no experience as a judge, except for a nine-month stint as an administrative law judge 20 years ago.
Professor Jenny Rivera celebrates her confirmation to the Court of Appeals on Feb. 11. At right is her partner, Audie Serrano. Tim Roske
Although several Republican members of the Judiciary Committee questioned Rivera's qualifications and opposed her nomination at the committee level, Rivera was confirmed by a voice vote by the full Senate with only a scattering of "nay" votes.
Her supporters, including domestic partner Audie Serrano, stood and applauded her as she watched from the balcony of the Senate, where Rivera and members of her family witnessed the proceedings Monday.
She was to immediately be sworn in by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile) as a member of the Court of Appeals.
The floor debate largely mirrored that at the committee hearing, with some senators questioning Rivera's fitness and others insisting she is uniquely qualified. Fifteen senators spoke during the session, but only twoJudiciary Committee Chairman John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, and John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuseopposed the nomination. Since the vote was not tallied, it was unclear if any other senators voted no.
During the debate, Bonacic said he was troubled by Rivera's "very limited experience," and expressed concern that her liberal writings and focus on social justice issues would translate into judicial activism.
"I found her writing to be confusing, unclear and overwhelmingly not reflective of the cases and subject matter that comes before the Court of Appeals," Bonacic said.