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Cuomo nominates Nassau DA Singas for Court of Appeals

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas inside the

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas inside the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola in September 2020. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday nominated Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas to fill one of two vacancies on New York’s top court.

Cuomo nominated Singas, a Democrat who resides in Manhasset, to fill a spot on the seven-member bench in June, when Judge Leslie Stein retires. If confirmed by the State Senate, Singas, who turns 55 in June, would serve a 14-year term.

"As District Attorney, Singas has championed access to justice for all, including creation of an Immigrant Affairs Office to focus on crimes against immigrants," Cuomo’s office said in a statement announcing the nomination. "She dedicated unprecedented resources to restorative justice work through the creation of the Community Partnership Program to match those in need of services with the tools they need to better integrate back to the community post-incarceration."

The Democratic governor also nominated Anthony Cannataro, 55, a civil court administrative judge in New York City, to fill the other Court of Appeals vacancy created earlier this year with the death of Judge Paul Feinman.

If Singas is confirmed, she would be the second district attorney currently on the Court of Appeals. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore formerly served as Westchester County district attorney.

Under DiFiore, the court has moved in a more conservative, pro-prosecution direction than her recent predecessors, especially as measured by outcomes in criminal cases, according to reviews by Newsday and court analysts.

Given that, Singas' nomination might not sit well with the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. When Singas and six others were nominated by a statewide judicial screening committee to replace Stein, the defense lawyers' group gave her its lowest rating: "Not recommended."

The association didn't immediately comment Tuesday. But a lawyer who represents indigent defendants said he supported the nomination.

"I got a call and I recommended her," said N. Scott Banks, attorney-in-chief for the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County. "I have concerns, of course, that having a couple of prosecutors on the court could be an issue. But I see her as a D.A. trying to make a difference. … I think you need a well-rounded person (on the court) who knows communities and I think she does."

The New York State Bar Association had rated Singas and Cannataro as "qualified" but gave its highest rating, "well qualified," to other candidates advanced by the screening committee.

Even so, Bar Association president Scott M. Karson called Singas a "wonderful choice" and said she had "valuable experience as a respected prosecutor with a demonstrated commitment to public service and improving the lives of children and families."

Singas took over as acting district attorney in Nassau in 2015 shortly after her predecessor, Kathleen Rice, was elected to Congress. Singas won election in 2015 and was reelected in 2019. Previously, she had served as an assistant district attorney in Nassau and Queens counties. She earned a law degree from Fordham University.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran praised the selection of Singas.

"Madeline Singas has been a superb district attorney who has been instrumental in making our county the safest community in America," Curran said. "I wish Madeline the best in her new role serving the people of our state, and I know she will make an outstanding jurist."

Cannataro, if confirmed, would become the second openly gay person to serve on New York's top court. The judge he would succeed, Feinman, was the first.

"Judge Cannataro brings to the Court significant and rich experience as a respected judge and former clerk to the Court of Appeals," Karson said. "His historic nomination as the second LGTBQ+ judge on the Court of Appeals underscores the principle that all New Yorkers are equal under the law and improves public confidence in the law."

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