Gov. Andrew Cuomo will shortly fill the first of two vacancies on New York's top court, following the retirement of Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick this week.
In Ciparcik's 19 years on the court, she helped decide cases ranging from the expansion of canoeist rights to those that invalidated the death penalty in New York.
"I was part of all of those decisions," Ciparick said Wednesday. "The last one fell to me to write."
Ciparick authored the court's ruling last month that police can't simply ask stopped motorists if they have a gun but need "founded suspicion." She cited potential privacy concerns and past jurisprudence on searches and seizures. Four other judges agreed.
Other important decisions led to "a fairer standard" for aid to New York City schools, she said, and noted joining then-Chief Judge Judith Kaye in dissenting with the court majority that in 2006 found same-sex marriage wasn't protected under New York's constitution.
"We were in the minority, but I think we started the discussion," she said. "Several years later the Legislature amended the statute, which was very historic. It's nice to be part of that history and these issues I think are very important."
The Court of Appeals' seven judges are appointed to 14-year terms. But, like Ciparick, they must retire at the end of the year they turn 70.
The State Commission on Judicial Nomination has proposed seven candidates to replace Ciparick, who was the court's first Hispanic and second female judge. They are Appellate Division justices Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Rolando T. Acosta and Eugene M. Fahey, CUNY Law School Professor Jenny Rivera and New York City attorneys Kathy H. Chin, David A. Schulz and Margarita Rosa, executive director of the nonprofit Grand Street Settlement.
The commission, which received 75 applications, said all seven are well qualified.
The New York State Bar Association said all but Rosa are well qualified. The New York State Trial Lawyers Association rated all seven qualified. Its screening committee found Abdus-Salaam, Acosta and Fahey highly qualified and highly recommended.
Cuomo has until Jan. 15 to select one, subject to Senate confirmation. Ciparick was appointed by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994 and reappointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
The second Court of Appeals vacancy results from the November death of Judge Theodore Jones Jr. of an apparent heart attack. The commission has until March 7 to propose candidates to replace Jones, a Spitzer nominee, to the current Democratic governor.
A New York City native and graduate of St. John's University School of Law, Ciparick worked for the Legal Aid Society, Judicial Conference of the State of New York, city criminal courts and city administrative judge and in 1978 was appointed criminal court judge. She was elected four years later to state Supreme Court.
Ciparick said she and her fellow judges — a mix of Democratic and Republican appointees — were largely able to put aside their differences.
"It's not partisan in the sense of Democrats vs. Republicans. ... I think we do our best to leave that at the door," Ciparick said, adding the court comes together on most issues. "I guess everybody has an ideology. Whether or not that reflects itself in decisions is something else."
Ciparick joins the Greenberg Traurig law firm Jan. 14. For two years, she will be prohibited from arguing before the Court of Appeals, though not from any other courts. Ciparick said she looks forward to that opportunity.
"I really don't know what's in store for me. It will be interesting to be on the other side."