By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — The surprising resignation of New York’s top judge on Monday came as she faced an ethics complaint.
Law360 was first to break the story hours after New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced she would step down. The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has looked into a complaint against DiFiore made by Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Associations union.
A spokesperson for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct told The Center Square on Tuesday the agency had no comment on the matter.
On Tuesday, Assembly member Charles Lavine, D-North Shore, who chairs the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that he’s following the Commission on Judicial Conduct’s handling of the DiFiore case, and he’s confident it will be “fairly determined.”
The departure of Judge DiFiore, who officially will leave at the end of August, will give Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul a chance to reshape a court that has at times provoked the ire of progressives. Most recently, Judge DiFiore led the 4-3 majority on a Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the districts Democratic lawmakers drew up for congressional and state Senate seats.
“I have every confidence that Gov. Hochul, working with the State Commission on Judicial Nomination, will select and appoint a new chief judge who will provide exemplary service, such appointment being a matter of state and national significance,” Assemblymember Lavine said.
In a statement, Hochul said she would review recommendations made by the Commission and Judicial Nomination to install a new chief judge.
The guidelines call for the commission to present seven potential nominees to the governor. New York’s governor will pick a candidate from that list, and similar to federal judicial appointments, the state Senate will give its advice and consent.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, said in a statement after Judge DiFiore’s announcement that the state’s top court “has become increasingly out of step” with the rest of the state on issues like workers’ and tenants’ rights.
“As the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’m resolute that the chief judge’s replacement must be a jurist who will lead our court of appeals in a much-needed course correction that uplifts the vulnerable and ensures equity and justice for all,”