Justice Feinman
Justice Feinman (Rick Kopstein/NYLJ)

The state Senate’s Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will take up Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nominee to the Court of Appeals, clearing the way for a full Senate confirmation.

State Sen. John Bonacic, head of the Judiciary Committee, announced on Monday that his committee would take up the nomination of Appellate Division, First Department, Justice Paul Feinman to fill the seat once held by the late Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

Bonacic, a Republican from Orange County, told reporters that he would be supporting Feinman’s nomination. “He looks like he’s an outstanding judge,” Bonacic said, calling the nomination “outstanding” as well.

A spokesman for Bonacic had told the Law Journal on Thursday—the day that Feinman was chosen—that there were “no plans to have a judiciary committee meeting before the end of session” (NYLJ, June 15).

If Feinman is approved by the Judiciary Committee, he would have to be confirmed by the state Senate, which is scheduled to conclude its legislative session on Wednesday.

Bonacic told reporters that a decision on a when a full Senate vote will be scheduled remains “fluid” and has not yet been determined.

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, lauded the decision to begin the confirmation process.

“We are pleased that the Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering the nomination of Justice Feinman and are encouraged that a vote before the full Senate will occur before the end of the legislative session,” he said.

On June 15, Cuomo announced he would be nominating Feinman, whom Cuomo elevated to the First Department in 2012. Feinman would become the first openly gay judge to serve on New York’s highest court if confirmed.

“We think that’s a really positive development,” said Matthew Skinner, the executive director of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York. “Judge Feinman’s records clearly shows he’s qualified and ready.”

Skinner added that his organization was concerned that Feinman’s confirmation would be “held up for months” because the legislative session is scheduled to end this week.

“Justice Feinman is an exemplary member of the New York judiciary,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, in a statement. “His record speaks for itself and we can rest assured that we will have a fair and independent judiciary under his watch. Justice Feinman would be an asset to any court, and his identity as an out gay man will help bring a unique set of cultural capabilities to the bench. The judiciary is the last frontier in protecting our democracy, and the appointment of Justice Feinman ensures this will continue.”

The vacancy on the court was created by the April 12 death of Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on the state’s highest court. Her body was found floating in the Hudson River in Manhattan, and her death remains under investigation by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.