In order to qualify for nomination, a candidate must be a resident of New York State and have been admitted to practice law in New York for at least 10 years. There are no other eligibility requirements. For example, a candidate need not have prior service as a judge and need not be a practicing lawyer
Whenever a vacancy on the Court of Appeals arises, the Commission begins the nomination process with extensive public notice of the vacancy, including dissemination of the notice through the Commission’s and other governmental websites, the media, bar associations, law schools, the Office of Court Administration, and all groups and individuals that request information updates from the Commission. In addition, the Commission, if practicable, holds informational meetings in areas around the State. The Commission also identifies and reaches out to specific potential candidates.
To make the application process easier, the Commission, whenever possible, uses a two- step application procedure in which a candidate’s initial submission consists of a short-form questionnaire, including a resume, a statement setting forth the candidate’s qualifications and interest in seeking nomination, and any other materials the candidate wishes to include. If the Commission determines that a candidate merits an interview by the full commission, the candidate is asked to submit a full questionnaire.
The Commission strives to obtain as complete a picture of candidates’ qualifications and achievements as possible. In addition to the questionnaires and personal statements, the Commission considers writing samples of the candidates and judicial decisions, if any. The Commission also considers each candidate’s reputation in the community, and information provided by colleagues, adversaries, and others who have come into contact with the candidate during his or her career.
After gathering such relevant information, the Commission meets as a body to interview each of the final round of candidates under consideration. The candidates in the final group considered by the Commission must also submit full information on their finances.
Only after this review process do the Commissioners cast votes to determine which candidates will be submitted to the Governor as well qualified to serve on the Court of Appeals. The voting procedures used by the Commission ensure that no candidate will be recommended to the Governor without broad support from a large majority of the Commission, including the favorable votes of at least eight of the twelve Commissioners. All proceedings and records of the Commission are confidential by statute.
For a vacancy in the office of Associate Judge, the Commission is required to nominate between three and seven candidates to the Governor. For the office of Chief Judge, the Commission must nominate seven candidates. The Commission does not rank the nominees submitted to the Governor. The Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, may only appoint judges to the Court of Appeals from the list of candidates nominated by the Commission. In this way, the Commission fulfills its duty to the citizens of this State by making sure that our State’s highest court — our “court of last resort” — is served by highly qualified and dedicated judges.