The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - March 23, 2009
ALBANY, N.Y. - Governor David A. Paterson has scheduled interviews for today with his top four candidates for the vacant presiding judgeship of the Appellate Division, First Department, sources familiar with the selection process said. All four are members of the Manhattan-based First Department: Justices Rolando T. Acosta, Luis A. Gonzalez and Angela M. Mazzarelli, and Acting Presiding Justice Peter Tom.
The interviews were scheduled to take place in Albany. One source said the sessions could stretch past today depending on last-minute changes in the schedule of Mr. Paterson, who is attempting to negotiate a new state budget with legislative leaders by April 1 for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The governor is not expected to interview any other candidates to fill the opening he created when he selected former Presiding Justice Jonathan Lippman as chief judge to succeed the retired Judith S. Kaye (NYLJ, Jan. 14). While Mr. Paterson said he was deeply impressed by Justice Lippman's credentials, the governor also complained about the nomination process that forced him to choose from a list of candidates from the Commission on Judicial Nomination that included seven men, six of them white (NYLJ, Dec. 4, 2008). Mr. Paterson said the list did not reflect the racial or gender diversity of the state.
Still in the Running
Rolando T. Acosta, 53
A former Legal Aid Society attorney, Justice Acosta was elected to Manhattan Supreme Court in 2002 and was among the first two selections of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer to the Appellate Division in 2007. He is a Columbia Law graduate.
Luis A. Gonzalez, 63
Elected to the Bronx Supreme Court in 1992, he was administrative judge in the 12th Judicial District from 1999 to 2002. He was appointed to the Appellate Division in 2002 by Governor George E. Pataki. Justice Gonzalez is a Columbia Law graduate.
Peter Tom, 62
Angela M. Mazzarelli, 62
A Columbia Law School graduate and former Bronx Legal Services attorney, she was elected to Manhattan Supreme Court in 1992 after four years as an acting Supreme Court justice. Justice Mazzarelli was appointed to the Appellate Division in 1994 by Mr. Cuomo. Of the four candidates for the First Department position, Justice Tom is Asian-American, Justice Mazzarelli is a white woman and Justices Gonzalez and Acosta are Hispanic. No Asian-American or Hispanic has been a permanent presiding Appellate Division justice, although Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, a Hispanic, is senior associate judge on the Court of Appeals. Three women have served as a presiding justice, including A. Gail Prudenti, the current presiding justice in the Second Department.
Since becoming governor last year, Mr. Paterson, who is black, has shown an inclination to promote minority judges or women to the Appellate Division. Of his eight appointments, two have been black men, two black women, three white women and one white man. It was not known how many of the presiding justice candidates were declared "highly qualified" by the First Department Judicial Screening Committee. Mr. Paterson can choose only among candidates found to be "highly qualified" by the committee. Sources have told the New York Law Journal that at least three other sitting First Department judges applied for the presiding judgeship. In addition to the four Mr. Paterson will interview, Justices Richard T. Andrias, David B. Saxe and Dianne T. Renwick also applied (NYLJ, March 11). Gubernatorial appointments to the Appellate Division do not require confirmation by the state Senate. Joel.Stashenko@incisivemedia.com