Commission Puts 7 on Short List for NY Chief Judge

ALBANY (AP) -

A state commission on Thursday put seven lawyers on the short list for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pick to be New York’s next top judge.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, now 70, must retire at the end of the year as the presiding judge at the Court of Appeals, which often makes case law for the state, and chief administrator of the court system and 3,600 state and locally paid judges. The post pays $198,600 a year. The term is 14 years.

The seven include former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and former New York Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti, now executive director of the Center for Families, Children and the Law at Hofstra University.

Others culled from 33 applicants and found well-qualified are private practice attorneys and law firm partners Carey Dunne of Davis Polk & Wardwell; Caitlin Halligan of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Rowan Wilson of Cravath, Swaine & Moore; and Stephen Younger of Patterson Belknapp Webb & Tyler.

Garcia was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2005 to 2008. DiFiore was first elected district attorney in 2005. Prudenti, former presiding justice at the midlevel Appellate Division in Brooklyn, stepped down as the state’s chief administrative judge under Lippman this summer.

“The ills of society and the problems that society faces ultimately come to the courts,” Lippman said. “On the civil side of things we certainly have the issue of access to justice and legal services for those in need. … On the criminal side with so many issues around the country in the last period of time relating to the public’s confidence in what we do and the alienation in different communities.”

The constitutional mission is equal justice, and one challenge is to maintain public trust in the system, he said.

By law, Cuomo is required to nominate someone by Dec. 1 from the list given by the 12-member commission.