Pataki’s Judicial Legacy

In a story today on the politics of appointments to the state Court of Appeals, Yancey Roy writes that George Pataki is unlikely to re-appoint George Bundy Smith, the most liberal judge on the court, when his term expires in September.

The main point of the story is that the next governor — Democrat or Republican — will enjoy huge clout over the makeup of the court, and will get to appoint three judges in the space of a year after taking over.

But Pataki’s decision on Smith presents a singularly interesting prospect: that he would be able to make a parting statement of his conservative principles, in the context of his potential run for president, by using his last remaining appointment to replace a liberal judge on the state’s highest court with a conservative one.

As far as I know, these judgeships have usually tended to be de facto lifetime appointments, with judges appointed (and re-appointed) to 14-year terms up until the mandatory retirement age.

For the considerable number of you out there with longer institutional memories than mine, is there any precedent for a governor replacing a judge on the Court of Appeals on ideological grounds?

– Josh Benson