Lippman to be named NY chief judge

January 13, 2009 1:10:12 PM PST
Two people familiar with the search for New York's next chief judge said the job will go to Jonathan Lippman, an appellate division justice. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Gov. David Paterson hasn't yet announced his choice to lead the Court of Appeals.

The next judge will replace the longest serving chief, Judith Kaye, forced to retire in December because she reached the age limit of 70.

Paterson was sharply critical that a list of candidates to choose the chief judge from included no women.

The state's highest court is the final word in most criminal and civil actions under state law, upholding landmark civil rights laws and famously striking down the death penalty enacted by the Legislature as unconstitutional.

Lippman, Paterson and the state Bar Association had no immediate comment.

Lippman, 63, is presiding justice at the midlevel appeals court in Manhattan. A former state claims court judge, he was chief administrative judge of the court system from 1996 to 2007. He is the longest serving chief administrative judge in the state's history, working closely with Kaye much of the time.

The chief judge presides over and hears cases on the seven-member high court, writes decisions and dissenting opinions, and runs the New York's Unified Court System. The system handles 4 million cases a year at 363 courthouses with a $2 billion budget.

Word of Lippman's selection came as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Sampson said he would reevaluate the nominating commission's list given to Paterson before convening a confirmation hearing for the next chief judge. Under law, a governor must choose from the list prepared through interviews and research by a panel of judicial and legal authorities appointed by the governor.

"I find it incomprehensible and deeply disturbing that not a single woman appeared on the list of qualified judicial candidates to succeed Judith Kaye," Sampson said in a prepared statement.

"As the birthplace of women's suffrage and civil and political rights, the commission failed to meet the high standards and great tradition of our state when it failed to include a woman on its list of candidates for our highest court."


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