ALBANY, N.Y. — The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nomination of Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore to preside at the state’s highest court and oversee the judiciary.
DiFiore has been Westchester County district attorney for a decade. The former Republican turned Democrat, will now preside at the seven-member Court of Appeals that often makes case law for New York.
60-year-old DiFiore, who was elected to her third term as DA in 2013, replaces Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who had to retire this year after turning 70 last year.
On Dec. 1, 2015, Gov. Cuomo, a resident of North Castle, nominated DiFiore after months of speculation that DiFiore was a leading candidate for the opening on the Court of Appeals. Cuomo nominated her from a list of seven lawyers advanced by a state commission that found them well qualified among 33 applicants. Others included former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia and former New York Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti.
“Chief Judge is a very, very important position and I think she’s going to do an extraordinary job,” Cuomo said in December when he announced the nomination. “She has served as both judge and prosecutor, and has spent her career working to ensure justice and fairness for New Yorkers.”
Cuomo faced a deadline to name a successor for Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. By law, Cuomo is the one who can name DiFiore’s replacement as county District Attorney.
State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, told Daily Voice: “Judge DiFiore has proven, over three decades, that she has the legal skills, the administrative experience and the judicial temperament necessary to do an exceptional job as Chief Judge. I strongly support her confirmation.”
While she may have passed a full Senate vote and received praise from both Cuomo and Latimer, there was no love loss for Janet Difiore in her new appointment from Blacks in Westchester, because of the lack of justice they have received in the many cases of Police Criminality. While happy to see her go, many African-Americans in Westchester asked the question, ‘Why was DiFiore considered for NYS Court of Appeals after failing to bring families full and fair investigations in Westchester County? Those outspoken about their disapproval of DiFiore’s appointment, included Kenneth Chamberlain Jr, a family member of a victim of injustice & questionable police shooting by the White Plains Police Department.
“The news of the possibility of Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore being considered for a spot on the New York State Court of Appeals is very disturbing to me,” Chamberlain told BW when the news of her appointment was announced in December. “Why you ask, well its very simple Danroy DJ Henry, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., just two names of many that I could mention. Names of victims of injustice, names of individuals who needlessly lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement, names of individuals whose families were promised full and fair investigations into their deaths and although evidence suggested that there should be indictments there were none.”
Chamberlain is currently considering whether or not to throw his hat in the ring in the upcoming mayoral race in White Plains.
Several Democratic hopefuls have been mentioned, including three current judges who would have to give up their seats to seek the job of Westchester’s top law enforcement officer. At least two other former Westchester prosecutors are interested. Now that DiFiore is confirmed, the District Attorney’s position would be filled on an interim basis until the winner of an election in November 2016 takes office in January 2017. One of DiFiore’s top deputies would assume command initially and could hold the job the entire year if Gov. Andrew Cuomo chooses not to fill the vacancy by appointment.
Only one other woman has served as chief judge: the late Judith Kaye who died on Jan. 7 at the age of 77. She was a native of Monticello.