Governor Also Intends to Nominate Caitlin J. Halligan to Serve as Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals; Supports Judge Joseph Zayas to Serve as Chief Administrative Judge
Governor Kathy Hochul today nominated the Honorable Rowan D. Wilson, who has served as Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals for the past six years, to serve as Chief Judge and fill the vacancy created last summer. The Governor also intends to nominate Caitlin J. Halligan, who has served as New York State Solicitor General and General Counsel to the New York County District Attorney and is currently partner at the law firm of Selendy Gay Elsberg PLLC, to fill Judge Wilson's vacancy as Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals. In addition, Hochul announced her strong support for Judge Wilson's intention to recommend the Honorable Joseph Zayas for appointment as Chief Administrative Judge, charged with oversight over court operations, including a budget of more than $3 billion.
"The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals not only leads the State's highest court, but is also responsible for managing the diverse and complex courts across the State. New Yorkers deserve a strong, effective, and thoughtful leader, and I am proud to nominate Judge Wilson as Chief Judge," Governor Hochul said. "Judge Wilson's sterling record of upholding justice and fairness makes him well-suited to lead the court at this critical time. To ensure the Court continues to function effectively, I also intend to nominate Caitlin Halligan, who will bring a critical perspective to our justice system. Ms. Halligan was one of the highly recommended candidates from the list of seven reviewed by the Commission on Judicial Nomination. I look forward to working with these talented individuals to elevate the esteem of our State's highest court, protect New Yorkers' rights and safety, and ensure that justice is administered. Our courts have been clogged since the pandemic, and I will work hard with the new leadership in the Judiciary to ensure that justice is no longer denied due to insufficiencies in our system."
Hon. Rowan D. Wilson has served as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals since 2017. If confirmed, Judge Wilson would make history as the first Black Chief Judge. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and graduated from Harvard Law School. Following law school, from 1984 to 1986, Judge Wilson served as Law Clerk to Hon. James R. Browning, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
He then joined Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP as an associate, and became a partner in 1992, notably serving as the first Black partner in the firm's history. While in private practice, Judge Wilson handled numerous corporate and pro bono matters. He also served as Trustee for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and for the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, and for twenty-one years as Chairman of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, which provides legal representation and community-based public defense services to the Harlem community.
Rowan D. Wilson said, "Serving as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals would be the honor of my career, and I am humbled by this nomination from Governor Hochul. Protecting the rights of New Yorkers is my top priority, and I look forward to working with Governor Hochul and our partners throughout the judiciary system to manage our courts and deliver justice."
Caitlin J. Halligan is currently a partner at the law firm of Selendy Gay Elsberg PLLC. Ms. Halligan received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995. Upon graduation from law school, she served as Law Clerk to Hon. Patricia Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Hon. Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Ms. Halligan has served as head of the Internet Bureau in the Office of the New York State Attorney General and First Deputy Solicitor General for the State of New York, and from 2001 to 2007 served as Solicitor General for the State of New York. She has also served as General Counsel to the New York County District Attorney's Office. She currently teaches several classes as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, and previously taught at Columbia Law School and Georgetown Law Center.
Caitlin J. Halligan said, "Now more than ever, our courts must be a place of integrity, fairness and justice for all, and I am committed to upholding those values if confirmed to the Court. I am grateful to Governor Hochul for placing her trust in me during this critical time for our judiciary."
The New York Court of Appeals was established by constitutional amendment in 1847. For its first twenty years, half the judges of the Court were elected and half appointed by the Governor from among the justices of the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Convention of 1867-68 drafted new articles providing for seven judges and from then until 1977, judges of the court were chosen by statewide elections. In 1977, the State Constitution was amended to create a Commission on Judicial Nomination to recommend to the Governor candidates for appointment to the Court, and to require the Governor to appoint from among those recommended, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The legislature, required by the constitutional amendment to provide for the organization and procedure of the Commission, adopted Article 3-A of the Judiciary Law in 1978, which was amended twice more in the 1980s. Consistent with constitutional and statutory mandates, Governor Hochul plans to sign a further amendment to the Judiciary Law, which allows a Governor to expeditiously fill an Associate Judge vacancy when one is created by an Associate Judge becoming Chief Judge by creating the option to select an individual already on the existing approved list to fill a court vacancy.