Cuomo to Choose From List of 7 for Top NY Court

ALBANY (AP) -

A state commission has submitted the names of seven attorneys and judges for the upcoming vacancy on New York’s highest court, including the Republican who holds the seat.

Judge Victoria Graffeo’s 14-year term expires in November. Graffeo, a former chief counsel to the Assembly minority leader, state solicitor general and trial judge, was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Republican Governor George Pataki in 2000.

The state’s highest court reviews lower court decisions, interprets statutes and the state’s constitution, and often makes case law for New York.

The Commission on Judicial Nomination’s list of seven was culled from 32 applicants. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to choose from among the picks within the next few weeks.

“That so many exceptional candidates were motivated to apply demonstrates the remarkable strength and depth of the legal profession in the State of New York,” said Judith Kaye, former chief judge at the court who chairs the commission.

The others, all Democrats like Cuomo, include Daniel Alter, general counsel at the state Department of Financial Services, and Preeta Bansal, visiting scholar at Harvard Law School and senior legal and policy adviser at the MIT Media Lab.

Also listed are midlevel Appellate Division court justices Eugene Fahey from Rochester and Leslie Stein from Albany.

Two Manhattan attorneys on the list, both longtime litigators, are Maria Vullo, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and Rowan Wilson, a partner with Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Cuomo filled two previous vacancies with Jenny Rivera, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, and Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an Appellate Division Justice.

Nomination to the $151,200-a-year post is subject to Senate confirmation.

According to Vin Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor who follows the court, Graffeo is the first Republican on the three lists of potential nominees forwarded to Cuomo. He noted that his father, former Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo, received lists of nominees from both major parties and named several Republicans, including Richard Simons, Stewart Hancock and Howard Levine and Chief Judge Sol Wachtler.