With the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, abruptly announcing her resignation this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul is tasked with naming her replacement.

But the governor wouldn’t get into the specifics Wednesday of what kind of judge she would consider for the job or why DiFiore is quitting six years into a 14-year term.

“I am going to find someone who is a thoughtful individual,” Hochul said. “Someone who is well regarded in the legal community. And again, that process is just getting underway. I will not be engaged until much further down the road. The Judicial Commission will be soliciting applications.”

What You Need To Know

  • Hochul could soon choose the next chief judge of New York after the current judge Janet DiFiore abruptly announced her resignation this week

  • While some would like a judge with a different judicial philosophy than DiFiore, a former prosecutor, Hochul would not commit one way or another

  • DiFiore is currently under investigation by the Judicial Commission on Conduct for allegedly interfering in a disciplinary case

In an announcement that seemed to come out of nowhere, DiFiore said Monday she is resigning the position at the end of next month, leaving Hochul with a major decision in an election year.

The chief judge oversees the state’s judiciary branch and serves as the top justice on the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Some liberal critics believe the current court, heavy with former prosecutors like DiFiore, needs to move in a different direction.

“There has been a string of decisions that have been skewing the playing field in New York more towards the already powerful,” said Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat and the deputy state Senate majority leader. “And we are trying to recalibrate that, and we have a great opportunity to do that now that Janet DiFiore is retiring.”

After DiFiore announced her resignation, it was revealed she is being investigated by the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct for allegedly interfering in a disciplinary hearing, although she denies the investigation has anything to do with the decision to step down before her term was halfway over.

“I had a chance to talk to her. She let me know that she would be resigning. And I thanked her for her service to the state of New York. It was a very challenging position. Especially through the pandemic,” Hochul said.

DiFiore had very close ties to former Gove. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in disgrace last August. When sexual harassment allegations first surfaced last year, Cuomo made a bid to have DiFiore investigate them. It was an idea that was rejected by the legislature. DiFiore, a former Republican, was appointed the chief judge position by Cuomo in 2016.

“Andrew Cuomo’s influence over state government should be over. And to the extent that her departure will help accelerate the last remnants of that, that is for the good of the state,” Gianaris said.

The state’s Commission on Judicial Appointments — comprised of appointees by the governor, legislative leaders, and the chief judge herself — has 120 days from the announcement of the vacancy to come up with a list of seven prospective candidates for chief judge.

After that, the governor has a minimum of 15 days and a maximum of 30 days to select one of those candidates.