When Dad Reached Across the Aisle: How Mario Cuomo Created a Bipartisan Court of Appeals

86 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2014

Date Written: 2013


Before he leaves office, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo almost certainly will have appointed every sitting judge on the state's Court of Appeals. The only other Governor to hold this power over New York State's respected high court was Andrew Cuomo's father, Mario Cuomo, who re-made the Court of Appeals with an unprecedented eleven appointments during his terms in the Governor's Mansion. Many people feared that Mario Cuomo would turn the Court into a playland of his political cronies. However, Mario Cuomo surprised even his greatest skeptics by reaching across the aisle, coming up with a set of bipartisan appointments that left an enduring mark on New York State's caselaw.

This article closely examines the multi-faceted ways in which Mario Cuomo sculpted the Court of Appeals. For instance, he fulfilled campaign promises to appoint the first female judge and the first African-American judge to the Court of Appeals bench, appointing the first Hispanic Court of Appeals judge as well. To date, he remains the last New York State Governor to appoint a Court of Appeals judge from the opposing political party. However, he also found ways to appoint judges who represented key personal interests that he possessed, from opposing the death penalty to increasing the number of Italian-Americans in high judicial posts.

By "connecting the dots" of various factors, this article sheds some light on factors that Mario Cuomo likely considered important in selecting Court of Appeals judges. In doing so, this article illuminates key points about Mario Cuomo, about the Court of Appeals, and about the strategic machinations of high court judicial appointments overall.

Keywords: Mario Cuomo, New York State Court of Appeals, bipartisan, diversity, judges, state constitution, Judith Kaye, Richard Simons, Sol Wachtler, Fritz Alexander II, Vito Titone, Joseph Bellacosa, George Bundy Smith, Howard Levine, Carmen Ciparick, first female, first African-American

Suggested Citation

Pomerance, Benjamin, When Dad Reached Across the Aisle: How Mario Cuomo Created a Bipartisan Court of Appeals (2013). Albany Law Review, Vol. 77, p. 185, 2013/2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535683

Benjamin Pomerance (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

United States

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