Gov. Kathy Hochul nominated Western New York appellate judge and former prosecutor Shirley Troutman to fill a soon-to-be vacant seat on the state’s top court on Wednesday, Nov. 24.
If confirmed by the state Senate, Troutman will take the place of Eugene Fahey for a 14-year term on the seven-member New York State Court of Appeals, as Fahey plans to depart from the bench at the end of the year because of reaching the mandatory retirement age.
“Justice Troutman has a brilliant legal mind, a fair-minded judicial philosophy, sterling qualifications, and a commitment to equal justice that guides her approach from the bench,” said Hochul in a statement. “I am confident she will serve with distinction on the New York State Court of Appeals.”
Troutman currently is an associate justice at the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court’s Fourth Judicial Department, a position she was designated to by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016.
The legal eagle also co-chairs the Franklin Williams Commission, which advises the state’s courts on issues affecting employees and litigants of color.
Her appointment would make the Court of Appeals majority judges of color, and the president of the New York State Bar Association applauded Hochul’s choice as a boost for diversity.
“Justice Troutman brings to the Court of Appeals invaluable experience as a prosecutor, trial court judge and appellate justice. She is a true champion for justice, diversity, and inclusion,” said Andrew Brown in a statement. “Her appointment underscores the importance of a diverse judiciary.”
Troutman also served as a judge for the State Supreme Court’s Eight Judicial District in Western New York and as an Eerie County judge.
Having served on the bench since 1994, the Western New York resident previously worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District, as an Assistant State Attorney General, and an Assistant District Attorney.
Criminal justice reform advocates and progressive state legislators had called on Hochul to fill Fahey’s seat with a defense attorney or a public defender, instead of another former prosecutor, which will make up four of the seven judges if Troutman’s approved.
Ten Albany lawmakers, including the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee chairperson Brad Hoylman (D–Manhattan), asked the governor to consider Corey Stoughton, a New York City-based attorney at the Legal Aid Society, or Timothy Murphy, a federal public defender from Hochul’s backyard in Buffalo, reported New York Focus.
“We’ve seen historically the Court of Appeals draw from a very narrow group that includes prosecutors and white-shoe law firms and judges who were part of the court system,” Hoylman told amNewYork Metro in an interview. “The public defender has a background of [being] in the trenches with clients who are vulnerable, lower-income, and oftentimes not well represented in either court rooms or in the electorate.”
The past experience of the judges shapes how they approach cases on issues that progressive lawmakers have fought for since Democrats gained the majority in the state Senate in 2018, like tenant protections and criminal justice reforms, Hoylman noted.
Hoylman said that Troutman was highly qualified and that he will review her record when legislators return to Albany in the new year.
“I look forward to reviewing Justice Troutman’s background and asking her how she will endeavor to help the most vulnerable in our court system and how her judicial philosophy will contribute to that,” Hoylman said. “It’s up to us as senators to review her qualifications and confirm that she will represent the progressive democratic principles that so many of us in the senate have fought for since we got the majority.”
“She is sensitive to racial justice issues, and how those issues often negatively intersect with the criminal justice system,” Donaher said in a statement. “I look forward to her tenure at the Court of Appeals and believe she will be a strong advocate for addressing the inequities in our criminal and family court systems.”
A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment beyond the press release.