DiFiore to step down as New York high court's chief judge

A view of the New York State Court of Appeals building is seen in Albany
A view of the New York State Court of Appeals building is seen in Albany, New York REUTERS/Hans Pennink
  • Janet DiFiore to step down from New York Court of Appeals in August
  • Governor Kathy Hochul gains chance to nominate second judge to court

(Reuters) - Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on New York's highest court, on Monday said she will resign at the end of August after more than six years on the bench, including more than two helping shape the state judiciary's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The retirement gives Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul a new vacancy to fill on the New York Court of Appeals. In a letter the state judiciary, DiFiore, 66, said it was "time to move on to the next chapter of my professional life."

DiFiore did not detail what that would be, but said the moment was right after having overseen the court system as it grappled with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed trials and forced court proceedings to go virtual.

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore attends a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony of New York Governor Kathy Hochul as she becomes New York State's first woman governor, in the Red Room at the New York State Capitol, in Albany, New York, U.S., August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

"Excellence is a mindset, one that is now fully integrated into the fabric of the New York courts, leaving us well prepared to meet the future justice needs of every lawyer, litigant and court user who comes to our courthouses seeking fair, timely and justice services," DiFiore wrote in the letter.

DiFiore, a former Westchester County district attorney who switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2007, was appointed to the seven-member New York Court of Appeals in January 2016 by former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.

She was the second woman to serve as the state's chief judge after Judith Kaye, who held the position from 1993 to 2008. DiFiore's six other colleagues will now appoint an acting replacement judge until the Democratic-led Senate confirms a successor.

Cuomo, who resigned in August, appointed six of the New York Court of Appeals' judges, including DiFiore. Hochul has named one to date, Shirley Troutman, the second Black woman to serve on the court.

In one of its biggest recent rulings, the state high court on a 4-3 vote in April ruled the state's new congressional map was unconstitutionally designed to favor Democrats and ordered the lines redrawn.

DiFiore authored the majority opinion. That ruling led to a new court-approved map that pit incumbents against each other and boosted Republican odds of capturing more seats in November's midterm elections.

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.