Rivera spoke briefly, promising to "remain true to the rule of law."
In response to a question about whether she would be a judicial activist, Rivera said, "I made very clear to the committee and the senators when I spoke to them that I will take every case based on the rule of law and the issues that come up in the case before me, that my approach to judicial decision-making is to apply the rule of law in that case."
Rivera is atypical of Court of Appeals nominees, and the confirmation process was similarly unique.
She is the first sitting law professor to go to the court in at least several decades, and she is the first nominee since the court became an appointive body in 1977 who did not have the support of the Judiciary Committee.
Rivera's nomination raised an issue of whether an academic career with what critics called a narrow scholarly focussocial justice, especially relating to Hispanicsis an appropriate choice for the high court.
Academics and three former Court of Appeals judges (NYLJ, Feb. 8) were among those arguing that a non-judge, non-practitioner law professor could add immeasurably to the intellectual diversity of the court. But critics suggested that if a Court of Appeals nominee does not have prior judicial experience, he or she should have considerable practical experience, or at least a broad academic focus.
Several court watchers, both supporters and critics, said they will be scrutinizing Rivera's decisions much more closely than those of her new colleagues.
Michael Hutter, a long-time appellate attorney who has argued dozens of cases at the Court of Appeals, said there is a particular curiosity about Rivera because she has no judicial track record and little experience as a litigator. At her confirmation hearing, Rivera said she had taken two cases to jury verdict and argued two appeals in her career.
Hutter, a professor at Albany Law School and special counsel to the Albany firm of Powers & Santola, said Cuomo's nomination of Rivera was a particularly "bold" act since the nominee's academic writing indicates that she leans well to the left, and is outside the mainstream of politics and legal academia.
Hutter said Rivera is part of a minority of academics described as "critical legal theorists," those who are highly critical of case law and judicial reliance on precedents and "believe essentially that the present legal system is protecting the interests of the wealthy and powerful, the one percent, against the demands of everyone else, especially ethnic minorities, the working class, gays and women."