Cuomo appoints Rowan Wilson to top state court

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo has tapped Rowan Wilson, a Harvard Law School graduate with 30 years of legal experience at a Manhattan law firm, to fill a vacant seat in the state's top court, the administration announced early Monday.

Wilson, a Democrat and a partner in the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, would become the Court of Appeals' second African-American member if his nomination is approved by the state Senate. It would be the first time in state history that the top court has had two African-American members serving at the same time, administration officials said.

"The New York State Court of Appeals embodies the highest values of government service, and I am confident Rowan Wilson will continue to articulate and uphold the principles of law and fairness that embody the best of New York," Cuomo said.

Wilson's nomination went to the Senate late Sunday night, just before the midnight deadline Cuomo faced under state law.

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“With decades of experience in complex commercial litigation and his leadership role in the firm's pro bono work, I am confident he has the intellect, integrity, and compassion we need to continue moving New York forward. I am proud to nominate him to serve as an Associate Judge, and I look forward to his swift confirmation by the State Senate,” Cuomo added.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County), was non-committal about Wilson’s prospects, saying only “we will review the nomination.”

Wilson's nomination, if approved by the Senate, would leave the Court of Appeals with only one Republican — Judge Michael Garcia — and continue the steady move to the left that the court has taken under Cuomo.

The governor has so far made seven nominations to the top court and only one, Garcia, has been a Republican. Wilson would replace retired Republican Judge Eugene Pigott, who left the bench at the end of last year.

"I am both humbled and honored to be nominated by Governor Cuomo to serve as an Associate Judge on the state's highest court," Wilson said in a statement. "My entire career has been dedicated to the pursuit of justice and there is no better place to continue those efforts than on the New York State Court of Appeals. I thank Governor Cuomo for this opportunity and look forward to working together to create a stronger, fairer New York for all."

Wilson, a 56-year-old Long Island resident, has a wide range of experience in commercial litigation — a background many court watchers say was missing on the top court — and has also led his law firm's pro bono efforts. He was one of seven potential nominees put forward by a screening panel last month.

His nomination got support from the New York State Bar Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers.

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