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‘An Embarrassment to the Party’: Insiders Say Cuomo Cleared Way for Daughter of New York’s Top Judge to Secure State Supreme Court Seat

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08: New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City. Cuomo, though easing restrictions on casinos and malls throughout the state, has declined to do so for indoor dining in restaurants in New York City despite pressure from business owners, citing struggles by the city to enforce the state's previous orders.

A faction of “political insiders” in New York’s Democratic party is accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of using his appointment power to help the daughter of the state’s highest ranking judge obtain her own seat on the bench, the New York Law Journal reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Gov. Cuomo paved the way for Alexandra Murphy, the daughter of the New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, to win a seat on the state Supreme Court in the Ninth Judicial District by nominating one of her main competitors, Veronica Hummel, to the Court of Claims last summer. The move came less than a month before the Democratic party nominations were decided in the overwhelmingly blue district.

The New York Court of Appeals is the state’s highest court.  The State Supreme Court system is akin to a superior court system in other states.

Murphy was one of three candidates vying for two open judgeships until Hummel, who had been a principal court attorney for a Supreme Court judge in White Plains, received her appointment.

“I felt that was an embarrassment to the party,” an unnamed judicial delegate told the Law Journal about the perceived political maneuver.

Per the report, the move was particularly galling to some party insiders because the well-established process potential nominees usually go through before obtaining party endorsements was essentially and apparently ignored by what many viewed as a direct effort to assist Murphy, the candidate with the least amount of legal experience.

The report explained further:

In the district, there’s a process for getting the Democratic nomination for a state Supreme Court seat, several insiders said. In general, past Democratic candidates spent several years attending political party events and interviewing with local political committees. That timeline appeared to not apply for Murphy, who gained the party nomination less than a year after becoming legally eligible for the judicial post, they said. Under state law, a person must be admitted to practice law in the state for at least 10 years before serving as a state Supreme Court judge.

It should be noted that Murphy, who spent 10 years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and was rated “well qualified” by two county bar associations, did not use her mother’s name on the ticket and reportedly never brought up her esteemed genetic links during the campaign.

“What happened took away any risk from anybody,” another political insider said, referring to Murphy’s competitor dropping her candidacy.

Tina Volz-Bongar, a member of the Peekskill Democratic Committee, called the move “disheartening,” saying it appeared that the party didn’t do its job to put the best candidate up for the role.

Chief Judge DiFiore, who was also nominated by Gov. Cuomo, is the top official in New York’s judicial branch hierarchy. She previously served as a district attorney and judge.

[image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.