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Hochul Nominates Shirley Troutman as Next Judge on NY's Highest Court
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Justice Shirley Troutman
Office of Court Administration

The New York Court of Appeals

Gov. Kathy Hochul has nominated Justice Shirley Troutman, an appellate judge and former prosecutor, to fill the upcoming vacancy on the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Troutman will have to be confirmed by the State Senate to assume the judgeship, which is opening up with the retirement of Associate Judge Eugene Fahey at the end of the year.

"Justice Troutman has a brilliant legal mind, a fair-minded judicial philosophy, sterling qualifications, and a commitment to equal justice that guides her approach from the bench,” Hochul said. “I am confident she will serve with distinction on the New York State Court of Appeals."

If she’s confirmed, Troutman would add to the geographic and racial diversity of the court. She’d be the only judge on the state’s highest court from upstate New York. And, with her addition, the majority of the court would be people of color.

Hochul’s pick hits close to home. Troutman started her career on the bench in Buffalo City Court, just a stone’s throw from Hamburg in Erie County, where Hochul lives. Troutman also swore Hochul in as lieutenant governor in 2015.

Troutman currently serves on the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, the state’s middle-tier court in Western New York.

She started her career as a prosecutor with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, but later became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York, which covers most counties west of Syracuse.

That could present a conflict for some Senate Democrats, who had called on Hochul to nominate someone with a background in criminal defense.

If Troutman is confirmed, former prosecutors would represent four seats on the seven-member court. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Associate Judges Madeline Singas and Michael Garcia also served as prosecutors at some point during their respective careers.

When Singas was nominated to the court earlier this year, a handful of Democrats in the State Senate had sought to block her nomination, citing her history as a prosecutor. Singas was ultimately confirmed by a wide margin.

It’s been nearly three decades since Troutman served as a prosecutor. She was selected as a city court judge in Buffalo in the mid-1990’s, and later went on to serve as a county court judge in Erie County, and an acting justice of the State Supreme Court, the state’s lowest tier.

Three years ago, she was selected to co-chair of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission. The panel, created in the late 1980’s, is tasked with addressing, and preventing, racial bias in the state court system, from judges to employees.

The New York State Bar Association supported her nomination, saying in a statement Wednesday that the various hats she’s worn during her career will be an addition to the court.

"Justice Troutman brings to the Court of Appeals invaluable experience as a prosecutor, trial court judge and appellate justice,” said T. Andrew Brown, the current president of NYSBA. “Her appointment underscores the importance of a diverse judiciary.”

The State Senate will likely consider her nomination in January, when the state Legislature returns to Albany for the new legislative session.

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