Paterson’s Other Big Appointment

courtnee Patersons Other Big AppointmentALBANY—With a list of seven candidates, none of whom are traveling the state or giving interviews, the coming appointment of the state's top judge might, on its face, be a simpler prospect for David Paterson than the circus surrounding the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.

And this appointment has a clear time frame: someone must be named to fill the Court of Appeals seat of retiring Chief Judge Judith Kaye by January 15. Kaye, who has served on the court for a quarter century, must leave after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. The seven candidates were put forward by the Commission on Judicial Nomination. They are: George Carpinello, Evan Davis, Steven Fisher, Theodore Jones, Jonathan Lippman, Eugene Pigott and Peter Zimroth.

"I think that the odds-on favorite is Theodore Jones, for a few reasons," said Vincent Bonventre, a professor at Albany Law School and an avid Court of Appeals watcher.

"There are only two candidates who are presently on the Court of Appeals, and every chief judge for over a century has come from within the Court of Appeals," he said. "And it would be a historic choice: the first African-American chief judge. Governors, like presidents, like to make historic choices. Plus, Jones is well-liked and well-respected."

The appointment would also make some political sense: if Paterson appoints Jones (or Pigott, who currently sits on the Court), Paterson will then be given a new list of names by the nominating commission to fill that slot. He and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo hemmed and hawed over the fact that the commission's list did not contain any women, but have been quiet on the issue since it became more or less clear that Paterson was bound by it.

Having made the point, he could start fresh. The nominating commission doesn't comment about its deliberations, but based on the amount of coverage Paterson's comments got, no doubt the seed has been planted.

There is a report, however, that Kaye prefers Lippman for the post. It substantiates murmurs around the Capitol that he, with lots of experience as an administrator, would be a good fit for a job that is as much bureaucrat as jurist.

Lippman was also rated as "exceptionally well-qualified" by the New York City Bar Association. As was Davis. The State Bar Association also rated the candidates, but everyone was deemed well-qualified except Carpinello.

Bonventre had kind words for all the candidates. Which suggests, if nothing else, that Paterson's choice for the judge position might not be such any easy one either.