Cuomo picks openly LGBT justice for Court of Appeals

Gazette photo by Forrest Miller

The only openly LGBT member of the state Senate is praising Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to nominate Justice Paul Feinman to succeed the late Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam on the New York State Court of Appeals. If confirmed, Feinman would be the first openly LGBT judge to serve on the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

“Paul Feinman is a judicial nominee of impeccable credentials and unimpeachable character whom I’ve known personally for nearly a quarter of a century,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, who is the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. “I want to express my deep gratitude to Governor Cuomo for choosing such a historic and inspired candidate and for once again giving New York’s LGBT community something to celebrate at this year’s Pride March.”

Today’s announcement comes just two weeks after Hoylman and the four other openly gay members of the State Legislature sent a letter to the governor urging him to make history by appointing an LGBT judge to the Court of Appeals. The NYS Commission on Judicial Vacancies recommended seven candidates to fill the seat, including two openly LGBT judges, the Honorable Paul Feinman and the Honorable Rosalyn Richter.

In the letter, Hoylman and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Daniel O’Donnell, Harry Bronson and Matthew Titone wrote that “the legitimacy of our judicial system depends upon the public being confident that we have a bench that is representative of our diverse population and applies the law without bias.

“This is of particular importance when the civil liberties of minority groups are threatened, as they are now by the repressive actions being taken by the Trump administration against LGBT people, women, religious and ethnic minorities, and immigrants.”

Justice Feinman, an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, has worked in a wide variety of courts since the beginning of his career in 1996, such as the Civil Court of the City of New York and the Criminal Court and the Civil Court in New York County. He currently serves as the First Vice President of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the City of New York, Inc.

Judge Feinman

If confirmed, Justice Feinman would be the first openly gay person to serve on the Court of Appeals. He is a member of the Richard C. Failla LGBT Commission, which promotes fair treatment of LGBT issues and LGBT members of the court community. He was the President of the International Association of LGBT Judges between 2008 and 2011, and was President of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York in 2015.

He began his legal career at the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, Criminal Appeals Bureau in 1985. From 1987 to 1989, Justice Feinman was a Senior Staff Attorney for the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division in Manhattan. From 1989 to 1996, he was a Principal Law Clerk to Hon. Angela M. Mazzarelli. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1981 and a J.D. from University of Minnesota Law School in 1985.

“Justice Feinman will be an exceptional addition to New York’s highest court,” Governor Cuomo said. “He is a talented jurist who has dedicated his career to public service and standing up for a fairer and more just New York. While we continue to mourn the untimely passing of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Justice Feinman will help ensure that the Court of Appeals upholds the highest principles of law and fairness that embody the very best of New York.”