ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo nominated Paul Feinman to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals on Thursday, potentially making him the first openly gay judge on New York’s top court.
“Justice Feinman will be an exceptional addition to New York’s highest court,” Cuomo said in a statement. “He is a talented jurist who has dedicated his career to public service and standing up for a fairer and more just New York.”
Feinman, 57, currently a midlevel appellate judge, would replace Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who died of an apparent suicide this spring.
Cuomo’s nominee would have to be approved by the Republican-led Senate, which has never rejected a Cuomo selection. But it is unclear whether the Senate, which technically has 30 days to consider the nomination, will do so before the end of the regular 2016 legislative session, slated for Wednesday.
Feinman grew up on Long Island and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, Cuomo officials said. He earned a graduate degree from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota. He started his professional career as an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.
He also worked as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a law clerk, before being elected as a New York City civil court judge in 1996. He was elected to the State Supreme Court in New York County in 2007 and appointed to the Appellate Division (the state’s midlevel appeals court) in 2012.
Additionally, Feinman has served on the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Judges and as president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association of Greater New York.
Feinman called the nomination a “tremendous honor.”
Five openly gay state legislators had written Cuomo, urging him to make history by selecting either Feinman or Rosalyn Richter to succeed Abdus-Salaam. Richter and Feinman were among seven candidates recommended by the state Commission on Judicial Nomination.
“We thank the governor for heeding our call,” said Assemb. Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan). He said Feinman, whom he’s known for more than two decades, has an “extraordinary history in working in appellate and trial practice and has a fine record.”