Court of Appeals nominee has extensive civil rights, commercial litigation background

Gazette file photo, The New York State Court of Appeals


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Rowan Wilson to be the next associate judge on the New York State Court of Appeals. If approved by the Senate, Wilson would replace Judge Eugene Pigott who retired last year.

“The New York State Court of Appeals embodies the highest values of government service, and I am confident Rowan Wilson will continue to articulate and uphold the principles of law and fairness that embody the best of New York,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The governor previously appointed Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Associate Judges Jenny Rivera, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Leslie Stein, Eugene Fahey and Michael Garcia to the Court of Appeals. Judges on the state’s highest court serve for a term of 14 years upon their confirmation by the state Senate.

If appointed Wilson would be the first Long Islander to serve on the court in over two decades; he would also be the only African American male on the bench.

Wilson was born in Pomona, California. He graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts at Harvard University in 1981 and then received a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1984. While attending Harvard, Wilson was a member of the Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Law Review. The student-run publication publishes twice a year a compilation of book reviews, essays, and articles reviewing civil rights law.

Wilson went on to serve a two-year clerkship with the Hon. James Browning, chief judge of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 1986 Wilson joined Cravath, Swaine and Moore and was made partner in 1992.

Throughout Wilson’s legal career, he has embraced the role as a legal advocate. Wilson served as chair of the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem since 1996 and also leads the pro bono work at Cravath, taking on cases in which he defends people’s civil rights. In addition he serves on the board of Wide Horizons for Children, an organization centered on protecting orphaned children globally.

“With decades of experience in complex commercial litigation and his leadership role in the firm’s pro bono work, I am confident he has the intellect, integrity, and compassion we need to continue moving New York forward,” Cuomo said.

During Wilson’s past 30 years working at Cravath, he took on cases tackling antitrust, intellectual property, contract, securities fraud, and entertainment and media issues.


“Rowan D. Wilson would bring to the Court of Appeals his expertise in complex commercial litigation as well as his commitment to justice, demonstrated by his extensive pro bono service,” said Claire Gutekunst, president of the New York State Bar Association.

The New York State Bar Association rated Wilson their highest rating of “well qualified.”

Wilson has also been endorsed by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, the Women’s Trial Lawyers Caucus, the Albany County Bar Association, the Broome County Bar Association, New York City Bar Association, and the Tri-County Bar Association (which includes Erie, Monroe and Onondaga counties).