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ALBANY - A state commission Thursday recommended Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's former ethics board chairwoman and a Hofstra University administrator among seven candidates from which Cuomo will chose the state's next chief judge.
"It's an amazingly strong list," said Vincent Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor who has long studied and critiqued New York's courts. "I don't see anybody that's a weak link on this list . . . you could put everyone of these on the court and it would be better than the U.S. Supreme Court."
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, who was chairman of Cuomo's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, is on the list along with former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia and Stephen Younger, a past president of the state Bar Association.ColumnNY's chief administrative judge steps down after 23 years
Garcia was U.S. Attorney in New York's Southern District in Manhattan from 2005 to 2008 after being appointed by President George W. Bush.
The Commission on Judicial Nomination also supported Gail Prudenti, executive director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. She is the state's former chief administrative judge, appointed by Lippman.
Prudenti had been the first woman to serve as the presiding judge of the state Appellate Division, second department, after her appointment by former Gov. George Pataki. She was also the first woman from Suffolk County to serve as an associate justice of the Appellate Division and also had been judge of Suffolk County's Surrogate Court.
The Commission on Judicial Nomination also recommended Manhattan attorney Carey R. Dunne, who had worked in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office; Caitlin Halligan, who was once chosen for a federal Court of Appeals seat by President Barack Obama, but was blocked by a Republican filibuster; and Manhattan attorney Rowan D. Wilson, a Harvard-trained lawyer with extensive pro bono work who is chairman of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.
The high court now has three white men, two white women and one African American woman.
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 and must leave the court Jan. 1. He was appointed head of the Court of Appeals in 2009.
The State Senate must confirm his replacement. Cuomo by law is supposed to nominate a judge no later than Dec. 1, but he's passed that deadline before. The court is down one associate justice after Susan Read resigned.