Justice LaSalle, Hochul’s Top Judge Pick, Defends His Record

Mr. Hoylman-Sigal also questioned the judge on instances where he had sided with the prosecution, saying that “it would seem to me that one could make the claim that you lean toward prosecution and against civil rights.”

Justice LaSalle said he “did not recognize the person” that his opponents had made him out to be, saying that he understood “what people deal with every day in the U.S., with police engagements, with the law.”

Other lawmakers asked Justice LaSalle about a unanimous opinion he joined in 2017 that ordered the New York attorney general to narrow a subpoena issued to the operator of anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” The case had led to accusations that Justice LaSalle was hostile to abortion rights.

“Based on your record, I think that it’s not unfair for people to project what some of your decisions might be,” State Senator John Liu, a Democrat from Queens, said, raising concerns about the case. Mr. Liu underscored the significance of the chief judge nomination process by stressing the importance of state courts as a bulwark against federal courts overturning years of precedent on a number of high-profile issues like abortion.

On Wednesday, Justice LaSalle said he strongly believed in “a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions,” arguing that the case in question actually centered on prosecutorial overreach.

Justice LaSalle appeared to receive a far warmer reception from Republicans on the committee, many of whom said that he had been treated unfairly, portraying his confirmation process as intensely politicized. State Senator Anthony H. Palumbo, a Republican from Long Island, told the judge that Justice LaSalle represented “the embodiment, in my opinion, of the American dream.”

Despite pressure on her to withdraw her nomination, the governor has forcefully defended Justice LaSalle in recent days, stressing the need for Latino representation at the top levels of state government and arguing that he has been “so horribly maligned based on a handful of cherry-picked cases.”

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