Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Unlike the contest between two candidates for chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, there was no rancor confirming the governor’s nominee for an associate judge to fill the seat vacated by Rowan Wilson, who became the chief judge. Caitlin Halligan, 56, is the newest judge on the high court, making the seven-member bench complete for the first time in more than a year. Jurists are appointed to 14-year terms and must retire when they turn 70 years old.
The oldest member of the court is Judge Shirley Troutman, 63. She will need to vacate her post at the end of 2029. For the next six years, there will be stability on the court. For the first time in many years, there is no Jewish member on the Court of Appeals.
The court consists of two Blacks, two Hispanics, one Greek, one Italian and one Irish member. Chief Judge Rowan Wilson is the first Black to lead the Unified Court System.
The chief judge earns an annual salary of $298,500. Each of the six associate judges earn an annual salary of $285,400.
Wilson has chosen the Honorable Joseph Zayas for appointment as chief administrative judge for the entire court system. He is responsible for oversight of court operations, including a budget of more than $3 billion. Zayas moves to the Court of Appeals from being an associate justice for the Second Department of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division. Appointed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Zayas, a Latino, assumed office on June 1, 2021. He received his Juris Doctor from Columbia University School of Law in 1988.
Halligan and her husband, Marc Falcone, are residents of the West Village neighborhood in Manhattan, a district represented by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“When she first joined the attorney general’s office, she was the first chief of the new Internet bureau, an office that has grown and plays an increasingly vital part in the attorney general’s consumer protection portfolio today,” Hoylman-Sigal said on the Senate floor during Halligan’s confirmation. “She became the state solicitor general beginning in 2001 where she fought to hold gun manufacturers liable for the devastations they propagate in our communities, and successfully sued the Bush EPA to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving catastrophic climate change.
“In 2010 President Barack Obama nominated Ms. Halligan for a seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite her stellar qualifications and favorable reports from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Republicans shamefully filibustered her nomination for three years. They filibustered her for one reason and one reason only – the NRA. The NRA vigorously opposed Ms. Halligan’s nomination, something that I would consider to be a badge of honor for Ms. Halligan due to her work to combat gun violence and hold gun manufacturers accountable. I’m happy to say that Washington DC’s loss is New York state’s gain,” Hoylman-Sigal concluded.
The support was bipartisan.
“Caitlin Halligan is probably the most experienced appellate attorney we have possibly seen as a nominee for the court of appeals and has had extensive experiences by being nominated for federal judgeships as well,” said Senator Anthony Palumbo (R – Southold, Suffolk County), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “My concern is that this is being done during a budget process and there seems to be a bit of a quid pro quo here, and I think that is offensive to the process of nominating judges. This is not how to do this. I’m pretty saddened by the way this has gone. I’m glad to see that we’re finally here filling the seven judges of the court of appeals’ seats because that’s what’s best for New Yorkers and going forward is what’s best for New Yorkers.”
That little outburst by Palumbo forced Buffalo Senator Sean Ryan to counter:
“This is a naked bald allegation without one fact or proof behind it. We would hope we would conduct ourselves at a level where we don’t make naked bald allegations with no proof behind them. Let’s hope for positivity in the future,” Ryan said.
When the brief remarks were over, Halligan received support from 47 of the 63 senators; 12 senators opposed, including one Democrat, Jabari Brisport, a resident of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.