March 30, 2023 – On behalf of the Asian American Judges Association of New York (AAJANY), we would first like to congratulate the seven candidates who have been nominated to fill the Chief Judge vacancy on the New York State Court of Appeals. Our state’s highest court is a Court for the people, inclusive of every race, ethnicity, gender, religion and more. Likewise, the process of selecting the six Associate Judges and Chief Judge that make up this Court must be thorough and all-inclusive. We wish to emphasize the importance of a fair and thoughtful selection process for any future Associate Judge appointment and express concern over the newly proposed Program Bill.
There has never been an Asian American judge on the Court of Appeals. To date, there have only been five Asian American judges on the Appellate Division, and only in the First and Second Departments. Since 1979, the Commission on Judicial Nomination has published 37 nomination lists for appointment to the Court of Appeals. An Asian American candidate did not appear on a list until the 25th vacancy in 2012. In the entire history of the Commission on Judicial Nomination, an Asian American has only appeared on the list on five occasions.
Jeh Johnson’s report on Equal Justice in the New York State Courts, dated October 1, 2020, highlighted the significant deficiencies in the representation and promotion of Asian American and Latino judges. There are no Asian American or Latino American candidates on the Commission’s current list for the Chief Judge vacancy. On Monday, March 27, 2023, new legislation was proposed which would significantly modify the well-established procedure for filling an Associate Judge vacancy on the Court of Appeals. Were the Governor to select a sitting Associate Judge from the Court of Appeals as the next Chief Judge, and then select from this same list of nominees to fill that vacancy, there will be no opportunity for the Governor to consider an Asian American for the Associate Judge position. In fact, there will be no opportunity for the Governor to consider any candidate of color. Diversity of candidates is paramount in the selection process of an Associate Judge to our highest court, and so we call for that process to be complete, fair, and inclusive of all.