Janet Devory, president of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, says she will step down at the end of August, even as Albany lawmakers consider stronger laws on firearms and abortion, actions at the heart of the citizen. The debate whose legality can be determined by the state judiciary.
In an interview Monday morning, Judge Deveori, 66, who is responsible for the state’s entire court system, said there had been no dramatic event for her resignation, but that she was ready to pursue other opportunities more than six years after her resignation. The post, which included harsh criticism from some judges and employees of the courts that oversaw it, and lawmakers who were upset by its decisions.
“I made my contribution,” she said, adding that she had no other job waiting, but that she felt it was a “relaxing moment” to move on. However, she did allow that there would be “another chapter in my career.”
“What’s that, at this very moment, I’m not sure,” she said.
The president of the Court of Appeals, which has seven members, is the highest judicial office in New York. Judge Defuri will be replaced by an Acting Chief Justice, chosen by the six other justices of the Court, until a successor is appointed by the Governor. Kathy Hochhol, Democrat, confirmed by the Senate, which is also led by a super Democratic majority.
Judge DeFiore, a former Westchester County District Attorney — and a former Republican who has changed the party for more than 15 years — was nominated to court in 2015 by the former governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, who resigned last August. She was the second female chief justice after Judith S. Kay, and one of six judges on the Court of Appeal appointed by Mr. Como. her resignation will give mrs. Hochul a second appointment to the New York Supreme Court; The first was Shirley Trautman last year.
The President of the Court of Appeal serves a term of 14 years. The job requires overseeing not only the Supreme Court itself but the state’s sprawling judicial system, which has a $3 billion budget and includes more than 1,350 state judges, along with 1,850 other city and village judges and more than 14,000 non-judicial staff.
The New York court could serve as a bulwark for conservative rulings from the US Supreme Court, which recently eliminated abortion rights and curtailed New York law regulating concealed carry weapons.
But on Monday, Judge Devior took issue with such questions, saying her proudest moments include managing chronic justice, maintaining an objective balance and handling procedures during the Covid crisis. The pandemic had severely curtailed in-person procedures statewide in most cases, with appeals court arguments held virtually rather than the baroque confines of an Albany courtroom, for example.
“It’s a great challenge every day,” she said.
Justice Devory’s legacy can best be defined by a comprehensive 32-page opinion she wrote in April for a divided court that found Democratic leaders violated the state constitution when they drew new congressional and Senate districts. The opinion also said, to a majority of four justices, that congressional districts designed by Democrats violated the state’s explicit prohibition on partisan manipulation.
The decision infuriated Democrats, who publicly accused the chief justice of an extrajudicial power grab.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries, New York’s top Democrat in the House of Representatives and has been one of the most vocal critics of the redistricting decision, made clear his feelings for Judge Divory on Monday. “Does it bad,” he said in a statement.
The judge also had a bitter struggle with Dennis Kirk, president of the New York State Courthouse Officers’ Association. the master. Quirk was suspended for 30 days last year for posting Judge DiFiore’s address online amid a fight over coronavirus vaccine mandates and his claim that they failed to address what he said were false allegations of racism against the union and its leadership.
the master. Quirk filed a complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct accusing the judge of promoting a “systematic culture of intimidation.” Later, he gave a lewd interview to the New York Daily News in which he said that he would remain in his job to vex the judge.
Lucien Chalvin, a spokesman for the courts, said Monday about Mr. Quirk, “In his many years as a union leader, doing his job and undue influence, he never came across anyone–certainly not a woman–who could stand up to him.”
In a statement Monday afternoon, Ms. Hochul said Judge DiFiore “has dedicated her career to the people of New York” and praised the judge’s leadership of the court system “especially during the unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic.” She added that she would review the state committee’s recommendations to the new judges as soon as those recommendations were made.
Jonathan Lippmann, Judge Devory’s predecessor, said there are clearly liberal and conservative currents in court, in both criminal and civil justice.
“But I don’t think this chief justice lived or died whether people thought she was liberal, conservative or centrist,” he said. “She had her own views. She took every case as soon as she arrived, and I think she was a strong leader.”
He said he did not believe that anyone had anticipated the recent manipulation decision. “It has national significance,” Mr. Lipman said. “And I did what I thought was right.”
State Senator Brad Hoelman, a Democrat from Manhattan’s West Side and chair of the Judiciary Committee, had gentle but cautionary comments about Judge Devory’s resignation, including criticism of court decisions on worker and tenant rights and criminal justice.
“Over the past several years, the Court of Appeals has become increasingly incompatible with the needs and desires of New Yorkers,” Hoelman said. “It’s time for a new direction in our judicial branch.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, the chamber’s second-highest rank, added that the judge’s resignation “allows a necessary reassessment of our state’s highest court after a series of wrong decisions” about unsafe workplaces, businesses and law enforcement personnel.
“I encourage Governor Hochhol to select a candidate who best reflects the values of our state, and we look forward to a more robust confirmation process to ensure this happens,” he said.
Judge DeVior also came under fire from other state judges in 2020 when her administration, citing the need to make deep budget cuts, rejected applications from 46 of the 49 judges who wanted to continue serving past the state’s retirement age for judges turning 70. The step that was previously granted all but routinely.
The dispute grew so bitter that 10 justices joined in extraordinary lawsuits against Judge Defuri and an administrative board voted unanimously to leave the older justices. They were accused of being victims of age discrimination.
Judge DeFiore, who said the court system was trying to avoid layoffs, defended the cuts, calling them “the most painful decision to date.”
the master. Chalvin, a spokesperson for the courts, said that when more funding became available last year, older justices were called to repeat to continue working, and a number of them returned to court.
David B. Sachs, a retired Circuit Court of Appeals judge who is now a private practice attorney whose firm handled one of the judges’ lawsuits, said Monday that during the litigation, Judge Devory showed “unnecessary intransigence toward any settlement of the case presented by the judges.”
the master. Challvin, a spokesperson for the courts, said in response: “Hard decisions are what executives make. That’s what it entails when one runs the third branch of government.”
Nicholas Vandus Contributed by William K. Rachbaum in reporting.