By Haley Viccaro, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo next month will choose a replacement for retiring Court of Appeals Judge Carmen Ciparick from among seven candidates recommended to him. And soon after, he'll have to make a second appointment to the state's highest court.
The Commission on Judicial Nomination submitted a list Dec. 1 of four women and three men to the Democratic governor to fill Ciparick's post on the court. Cuomo has from Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 to make his choice.
His recommendation then goes to the state Senate for confirmation, and the Senate has 30 days to confirm or reject the appointment.
The Court of Appeals has seven members.
"We have a few weeks and we are going through the list," Cuomo said to reporters during a cabinet meeting Wednesday.
The six candidates who are not chosen by the governor will be considered for the vacancy left by Associate Judge Theodore Jones, of New City, Rockland County, who passed away Nov. 6.
The deadline for individuals to apply for Jones' seat is Dec. 18.
For Ciparick's seat, a panel led by former Chief Judge Judith Kaye nominated Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Rolando Acosta, Kathy Chin, Eugene Fahey, Jenny Rivera, Margarita Rosa and David Schulz. They were chosen from a list of 75 individuals, which is a record number of applicants for a Court of Appeals seat, court officials said.
Ciparick was the court's first Hispanic judge and served for 19 years.
She has to retire at age 70, effective Dec. 31.
Candidates Acosta, Rivera and Rosa are of Hispanic decent. The commission said one of the factors considered to fill the vacancy is a diversity of applicants. Jones, appointed in 2007, was the only black judge on the court.
"We added the factor of diversity, and by diversity we don't just mean race and ethnicity but also background and where in the law they have been practicing," Kaye said. Of the 75 applicants, 47 percent were women and 32 percent were ethnic minorities. The commission said it interviewed 36 candidates before choosing the final seven, and half of them were minorities.
Abdus-Salaam and Acosta are associate justices in New York City. Fahey is an associate justice from Buffalo and the only upstate candidate. The other four candidates are also from New York City.
"We encourage a diversity of applicants, and we had applicants from every part of the state," Kaye said. "It just happened to turn out that six of the seven candidates chosen are from New York City."
In 2007 and 2008, there were only 15 and 17 applicants for two vacant positions, respectively. The commission said they enhanced their outreach efforts through increased public announcements and meetings. Applicants had until August 15 to apply for Ciparick's vacancy.
"We had a big statewide search and we are now into our second round with the Judge Jones vacancy," Kaye said. "We are giving everybody a chance out of those 74 remaining applicants. We are also expecting additional people to apply for the vacancy."
Cuomo, if elected to a second term in 2014, would be able to appoint all seven members of the court during his tenure. The other five members would either reach retirement age or the end of their 14-year terms during Cuomo's second term, said Vincent Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor who follows the court.
Bonventre said former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, added conservative-leaning judges during his three terms from 1993 through 2006. Pataki's predecessor, Democrat Mario Cuomo, and the current governor's father, appointed judges with a mix of views, Bonventre said.
"Is he going to be like Pataki and stick with his own ideology and own party, or is he going to be pick from both sides of the ideology and partisan line?" Bonventre said of the current governor. "He's going to have plenty of opportunity."
More immediately, Cuomo will have to fill seats held by two minority judges who had been among three liberal judges on the court; the other being Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Bonventre said.
Bonventre said the list of finalists are all Democrats who "if you look at their activities they appear all to be liberal."
He said that, "Obviously there is going to be pressure upon the governor to replace Ciparick with a Hispanic. She was the first Hispanic on the court, and to replace Judge Jones with an African American."
People who want to apply for the Judge Jones vacancy can download an application form from the Commission's website at www.nysegov.com/cjn. Applicants can also choose the option to be considered for future vacancies.