Conservative Dems Have Failed Miserably In NY— But They Blame Their Shortcomings On Progressives
The Battle Over Judge Hector LaSalle
The New York Times has continued shilling for Gov. Kathy Hochul and her choice of conservative jurist Hector LaSalle. It’s no wonder so many people have just stopped trusting the paper. Yesterday, they again tried insinuating that opponents to LaSalle are racially-motivated against Hispanics because the conservative, anti-Choice, anti-union nominee happens to be Hispanic. Three deceitful reporters— Rebecca O’Brien, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jesse McKinley— began their misguided article yesterday with 6 words instead of a sentence: “Allegations of racism and racial pandering.” And then painted the dispute between progressives and the very conservative governor on this matter is racial. “The dispute,” they wrote, “has pitted a crop of Latino and other minority lawmakers— who embrace him as the state’s prospective first Latino chief judge— against left-leaning lawmakers, who say that his decisions reveal stances taken against unions, reproductive choice and the rights of defendants.”
The first progressives to announce their opposition to LaSalle were Kristen Gonzalez of Queens, Julia Salazar of Brooklyn, Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx, all Latinos. You’d never guess that from reading The Times’ purposefully distorted reporting.
The reliably pro-business/anti-worker Times has smeared a very moderate group of progressives in the state Senate as somehow radical, claiming the Senate “has increasingly lurched to the left and appears eager to assert its growing sway in the State Capitol.”
As you go beyond the first few distorted paragraphs, you begin to see the outlines of the real story behind the opposition to LaSalle. “Most court observers,” the trio of reporters admitted, “have said the Court of Appeals shifted to the right during the tenure of the previous chief judge, Janet DiFiore, and Democrats saw her departure last summer as an opening to recalibrate the court’s political balance. The high stakes for the court were made particularly apparent last year, when a 4-to-3 majority— a conservative bloc led by Judge DiFiore— rejected a new map for the state’s congressional districts, calling it partisan gerrymandering by the Democratic majority in Albany. Democrats are still smarting from that decision, which party officials feel paved the way for Republicans to flip several seats in the November election.” [That conservative court decision against the map, coming at the same time that conservative courts in other states, like Florida, made the exact opposite decision— approving racist maps— cost the Democrats control of Congress.]
“There is an opportunity to change the trajectory,” the Senate’s leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said on NY1 last week, after noting that “people are hyperfocused on the court,” mentioning the ruling on redistricting.
Stewart-Cousin’s deputy, Michael Gianaris, who has already suggested he will vote against LaSalle, was even more blunt, casting the nomination as an opportunity for Albany’s upper chamber to show its independence and course-correct the court.
In the past, the typically smooth confirmation process has been “a rubber stamp of the governor’s pick,” Mr. Gianaris said in an interview. “And that doesn’t serve the people of this state well, as evidenced by the horrible tenure of Janet DiFiore and the three judges who aligned with her and are still on the court.”
The objections to Justice LaSalle and concerns about the ideological makeup of the court also reflect the growing importance of the state judiciary— a concern that is echoed across the United States, as the U.S. Supreme Court defers more questions of fundamental rights to local governments.
DiFiore was appointed by New York’s corrupt conservative former governor, Andrew Cuomo, who also elevated LaSalle to the appellate court, where LaSalle has been handing down reactionary judgments.
Now that Cuomo is gone from office, the most hated Democrat in the state is very conservative party chair Jay Jacobs, who most people think should resign after his disastrous performance in the midterms. He’s supporting LaSalle and told The Times that “he believed the battle over Justice LaSalle had more to do with political flexing than with the judge’s legal philosophy. ‘The progressive left, the far left, as I refer to them, determined that they wanted to use this as, in my judgment, a power play,’ said Jacobs, who has repeatedly come under fire from left-wing lawmakers for his stewardship of the party. Jacobs added that he felt that recent election results— in particular last summer’s primary, in which Ms. Hochul cruised past a progressive challenger, Jumaane Williams— gave her the right to choose whom she pleases.”
The Senate must vote to accept or reject [LaSalle] within 30 days of his nomination. But first the judiciary committee, dominated by Democrats, must hold hearings. “I don’t think the nominee has the votes,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who chairs the committee.
Stewart-Cousins also cast doubt on LaSalle’s prospects, saying last week in a podcast interview with Gotham Gazette, “I do not see this ending in the way that the governor wished it would.”
The sheer numbers don’t seem to favor Mr. LaSalle at this moment: The Judiciary recently expanded from 15 to 19 members, a change that Senate Democrats have said was routine, but that LaSalle’s defenders saw as a plot to stack the committee with “no” votes.
If the judge’s nomination reaches the floor, at least a dozen of the 42 Democrats in the 63-seat State Senate have indicated that they would vote against confirming him— meaning that Hochul may have to rely on Republicans.
Anyone who has followed Hochul’s disgusting, reactionary political career knows she is eager to cut a deal with Senate Republicans to get her nominee through. We’ll see if she gives away enough to get them, behind LaSalle. My guess is that she will; that’s who she is. It’s who she’s always been. This week Sen. Kristen Gonzalez urged Hochul to pull the nomination and start again with a less divisive choice. “Now more than ever, we need our Court of Appeals to be the leader in safeguarding our civil liberties, in defending our democracy and protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”