ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he will nominate mid-level appeals judge Paul Feinman for the state's top court, making him the first openly gay person to be up for the job.

Feinman, a Manhattan-based associate justice for the state Appellate Division, was one of seven finalists for the vacancy on the state Court of Appeals, the highest state court in New York.

Cuomo announced his selection Thursday during a television interview on NY1.

The Democratic governor praised Feinman's history on the bench, noting he worked his was up from a city civil court judge.

“He also happens to be openly gay and is an extraordinary human being and would be a great addition to that court," Cuomo said on NY1.

A University of Minnesota Law School graduate, Feinman has a lengthy career in New York's court system.
He was elected a New York City judge in 1996. In 2007, he was elected to state Supreme Court in Manhattan before Cuomo appointed him to the Appellate Division in 2012.

In a statement distributed by Cuomo's office, Feinman said it is a "tremendous honor to be nominated to the Court of Appeals."

"I thank Governor Cuomo for this opportunity to serve on the Court of Appeals and, if confirmed, look forward to working with my distinguished colleagues on the Court to continue to serve New York," Feinman said.

LGBT groups and five openly gay state lawmakers had urged Cuomo to pick a candidate from the LGBT community, arguing that either Feinman or fellow Associate Justice Rosalyn Richter would be a "superlative choice".

"Both Justice Feinman and Justice Richter are seasoned jurists who are highly regarded by practitioners, their peers and the LGBT community," the five lawmakers, including Rochester Assemblyman Harry Bronson, wrote to Cuomo earlier this month.

Feinman will be nominated to replace former Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who was found dead in the Hudson River in Manhattan in April.

The Republican-controlled Senate will have to confirm Cuomo's nomination. The Legislature is scheduled to end its annual legislative session on Wednesday.