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Janet DiFiore, likely new top judge, says she will be independent of Cuomo

Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County district attorney, appeared

Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County district attorney, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and said she believes in following legal precedents, isn't a "judicial activist" and holds a "concealed carry" handgun permit. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

New York’s likely next chief judge said Wednesday she would be independent of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, despite ties to the governor.

Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County district attorney, also told the Senate Judiciary Committee she believes in following legal precedents, isn’t a “judicial activist” and holds a “concealed carry” handgun permit.

Republicans voiced some concerns about DiFiore’s independence, but in the end advanced her nomination to become chief judge of the Court of Appeals to the full Senate – where it likely won’t be taken up Thursday.

DiFiore had served as chairwoman of Cuomo’s much-criticized Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Additionally, Cuomo had appointed her husband, Dennis Glazer, to the state’s casino location siting board.

When the hearing opened Wednesday, Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope), chairman of the committee, said of the nominee: “The first thing I thought of was: Is she going to be independent?”

DiFiore said she would be “independent in my decision making,” as well as fair and nonpartisan in her approach to issues.

“I share your interest in judicial independence and I care deeply about the independence of the judiciary and the judicial system,” DiFiore told senators.

Asked afterward if he believed she would be independent, Bonacic said: “No one ever knows for sure. It’s a trust issue. I think she’s trustworthy. I think she will be.”

DiFiore largely deflected questions senators posed about specific issues, noting some might eventually come before the seven-member court. Senators urged her to consider implementing bail reforms and monitor potential prosecutorial misconduct.

DiFiore said the judge she most admired was Stanley Fuld, a former prosecutor who was New York’s chief judge, and became known for his concern for civil liberties and the rights of the accused. She said she believed in the legal code of “stare decisis,” which is generally seen as letting legal precedents stand.

Asked about the Second Amendment, DiFiore called herself a “law-abiding gun owner” and said she had a “concealed carry” handgun permit. Asked if she thought the Second Amendment “conferred an individual right” to bear arms, she said yes.

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