ALBANY - New York's top state court will have an openly gay judge for the first time.
Mid-level appeals court judge Paul Feinman was elevated Wednesday to the state Court of Appeals, with the state Senate unanimously confirming him less than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated him for the post.
Feinman, who previously served in the Appellate Division in Manhattan, will fill the lone vacancy on the seven-member Court of Appeals, which was created by the April death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.
He was one of dozens of Cuomo appointees confirmed by the Senate in recent days, including former state Sen. James Alesi of East Rochester, who was approved late Tuesday for a spot on the state Public Service Commission.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman John Bonacic, R-Mt. Hope, Orange County, praised Feinman's credentials, hailing him as a jurist who has demonstrated his independence throughout his two decades on the bench.
"When we looked at the cases that Judge Feinman decided over the years, one of the things that impressed me the most was that he always reviewed the law in front of him and to the best of his ability he always tried to apply the law without any bias or prejudice," Bonacic said on the Senate floor.
Feinman has a lengthy career in the state's court system, working his way up from the New York City courts to the state Supreme Court to the Appellate Division, the state's mid-level appeals court.
A leukemia survivor, Feinman watched the Senate approve his nomination while seated next to his husband and Janet DiFiore, the state's chief judge. He was appointed to a 14-year term on the top court.
Feinman's nomination had the backing of dozens of LGBT groups and five openly gay state lawmakers, including Assemblyman Harry Bronson of Rochester, who had written to Cuomo pushing for Feinman's promotion.
"Not only is Justice Feinman an eminently qualified individual, but he also represents an amazing milestone for our state as the first open LGBT judge to ascend to the state’s highest court," Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said in a statement.
Alesi, meanwhile, was one of four people confirmed for the Public Service Commission, which oversees utility companies in New York. Cuomo nominated him for the post earlier this week.
A Republican state lawmaker for two decades, Alesi did not seek re-election in 2012. He was one of four Republican senators to vote for the state's 2011 same-sex marriage law.
Cuomo appointed Alesi to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board in 2013, where he made $90,000 a year. His new post comes with a $109,800 salary.
The Senate voted unanimously to confirm him late Tuesday.
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