By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY A Senate committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Gov. Andrew Cuomo's second pick for the state's highest court, clearing the way for a Monday vote by the full chamber.
Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate justice in the state Appellate Division in Manhattan, would become the first African-American woman to sit on the Court of Appeals if confirmed by the Senate.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Bonacic, R-Mt. Hope, Orange County, praised her 20 years' experience as a judge and 14 years as a trial attorney. The committee voted unanimously to send Abdus-Salaam's nominee to the Senate floor.
"Governor Cuomo really gave us an exemplary nominee," Bonacic said.
The hearing was in contrast to an appearance of Jenny Rivera, Cuomo's fist Court of Appeals nominee, before the committee in February. In that hearing, Bonacic and Senate Republicans raised concerns about the City University of New York law professor's lack of trial experience. At one point, Bonacic questioned whether Cuomo was more worried about "social engineering" by replacing Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick with Rivera; both are Puerto Rican.
"When I look at judge Salaam, I see a human being that's extremely qualified," Bonacic told reporters Tuesday. "I don't see color. I don't see a woman. I see merit, I see experience, I see someone with respect who is extremely qualified. I personally did not see that on the prior nominee (Rivera) in terms of the breadth of her experience."