New York’s top judge, Janet DiFiore, to step down halfway through

After six years on the job, New York’s top judge steps down halfway through her term.

In a letter to colleagues sent Monday, July 11, Chief Justice Janet DiFiore said she plans to retire in August and “move on to the next chapter of life.”

DiFiore, a Democrat and longtime resident of Westchester County, was appointed to the position by the then governor. Andrew Cuomo and confirmed by the State Senate in 2016.

A graduate of Long Island University and St. John’s University School of Law, DiFiore was elected a judge of the Westchester County Court in 1998. She served until 2002 before serving a two-year term as a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York.

In 2005, DiFiore was elected Westchester County District Attorney as a Republican. She then changed party affiliation to the Democratic Party in 2007.

As the state’s supreme justice, DiFiore wrote the majority opinion in an April 2022 ruling that overturned congressional district lines drawn by New York Democrats.

She ruled that Democrats gerrymanded them in their favor and failed to follow procedures designed to prevent partisan influence.

Because of the ruling, new lines were drawn by a court-appointed special master who were less favorable to Democrats.

Chief Justices normally serve 14-year terms, but the New York State Constitution requires Court of Appeals judges to retire at age 70. For DiFiore, that would be 2025.

“Serving as Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals and of the State of New York has been a great honor and the greatest privilege of my professional life,” DiFiore said.

His last day on the bench will be Wednesday, August 31, according to his letter.

Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to appoint a replacement in the coming months who will need to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Following DiFiore’s resignation, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, posted on Twitter urging Hochul to choose a progressive judge.

“In light of recent Supreme Court decisions and now news of the resignation of the Chief Justice of New York, it is more important than ever that Governor Hochul appoints and the Senate confirms a progressive Chief Justice,” said said Heastie.

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