Governor Hochul has a unique opportunity — and a critically important one — to appoint a new Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. The vacancy will occur when Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s resignation becomes effective on August 31, 2022. Modern Courts strongly urges qualified candidates to apply for this key position, which is crucial to the administration of justice in New York State.
The Chief Judge’s responsibilities include far more than serving as the presiding member of the seven-judge Court of Appeals, a role that requires a person of major legal substance. As the Chief Judicial Officer of the State, the Chief Judge also is responsible for running the most complex court system in the country (including 11 separate trial courts) with a budget of over $2 billion. This includes establishing statewide standards and administrative policies in consultation with the Administrative Board of the Courts and approval by the Court of Appeals.
New York’s Judicial Branch faces serious challenges, including inadequate resources, particularly for courts serving people of limited means, systemic racism, and the need for structural reform. These challenges require that the new Chief Judge be a strong leader with demonstrated expertise on the policy challenges facing courts today, as well as administrative experience and a strong commitment to equal access to justice. As the pandemic has demonstrated — highlighted by a recent Modern Courts report — it is essential that the new Chief Judge is prepared to be both creative and flexible to address the many current and future administrative challenges, as well as the highly consequential matters that come before the Court.
All those who by their character, temperament, professional aptitude, and experience are well qualified to hold such judicial office, including judges and attorneys with proven records of administrative experience and diverse backgrounds, should apply no later than August 29, 2022. (See https://cjn.ny.gov/form/candidate-application-questionna). The 12-member Commission on Judicial Nomination must submit to the Governor the names of its seven nominees within 120 days thereafter.
The fair and impartial administration of justice, including in courts primarily serving people of limited means, is essential for the future of the rule of law in New York. The appointment of a new Chief Judge with outstanding qualifications will determine the direction of the courts for years to come.