Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll look at a lawsuit about a disputed judicial nomination with a surprise twist: the plaintiff. We’ll also find out about new programs for students with dyslexia.
Credit…Hans Pennink/Associated Press
In the case of Case No. 603276/2023, the surprise was who filed it. It wasn’t Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Suffolk County, named the entire New York State Senate and 11 Democrats as defendants — Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader in the State Senate, and 10 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against the nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle, above, to be the state’s top judge.
In the weeks since the committee blocked LaSalle’s nomination last month, Hochul had been considering suing her fellow Democrats to compel the full Senate to vote on LaSalle’s nomination. But Case No. 603275/2023 was filed by the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, State Senator Anthony Palumbo.
He argued that the State Constitution requires a floor vote. “A vote of a mere committee of the Senate” is not enough, the lawsuit said.
It was clear after the Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 9 against sending LaSalle’s nomination to the full Senate that Hochul had not given up. The rejection was unprecedented, at least in the decades that New York has followed the current process for putting top judges on the bench — “regardless of whether the Senate was controlled by the same party to which the governor belonged,” Palumbo’s lawsuit noted.
A spokeswoman for Hochul declined to comment on the litigation on Thursday or say whether the governor might join the lawsuit. Palumbo told my colleague Luis Ferré-Sadurni that he had not spoken with the governor about LaSalle’s nomination or the suit.
The legal wrangling could deepen an already bitter face-off between Hochul and progressive Democrats in the State Senate who adamantly opposed LaSalle, saying he was too conservative. He had faced an uphill battle after his nomination drew fire from several unions, reproductive rights groups and community organizations that cited cases he had handled as anti-union and anti-abortion.
LaSalle, a state appellate judge on Long Island, denied that, saying that the rulings his opponents had singled out turned on procedural questions and did not necessarily reflect his views on issues.
Palumbo’s lawsuit, depending on how far it progresses, could set off a constitutional clash on the question of the Legislature’s role in approving the governor’s judicial nominations. At issue is whether Senate Democrats violated the State Constitution by failing to take up Justice LaSalle’s nomination in the full Senate, where all other nominations have been voted on — and approved.
“We’re in uncharted waters,” Richard Briffault, a Columbia University professor who is an expert on state constitutional law, said last month.
The State Constitution says only that a governor must make judicial appointments with the “advice and consent of the Senate.” Hochul — along with some legal experts, including Jonathan Lippman, a former chief judge — maintains that all 63 state senators must have a chance to vote on a nomination.
Senate Democrats have countered that as members of a coequal branch of government, they can follow their own rules and procedures.
But even if Palumbo’s lawsuit is successful and LaSalle’s nomination goes before the Senate, it is not clear that he would be confirmed. A significant number of the Senate’s 42 Democrats have said, publicly or privately, that they were against him. Hochul would probably have to secure yes votes from most if not all of the 21 Senate Republicans, along with roughly a dozen Democrats.
Expect wind gusts on a mostly sunny day in the mid-50s. At night, it’s mostly cloudy, with temps dropping to the mid-30s.
In effect until Monday (Lincoln’s Birthday).
The latest Metro news
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Helping children like Anthony learn to read
Two new specialized dyslexia programs will open soon in Brooklyn public schools, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Thursday, as New York City moves to do more for children with the learning disability. It’s a deeply personal matter for the mayor, whose own dyslexia went undiagnosed until he was in college.
The two new programs will be in Brooklyn’s District 15, which includes Park Slope and Sunset Park, and will join two others that Adams announced in May. He has said that efforts to begin new reading initiatives in schools are essential to leveling out inequities that contribute to literacy gaps for Black and Latino children. As many as 20 percent of students in the city could have dyslexia.
Beyond the new dyslexia programs, the schools chancellor, David Banks, has pressed schools to pull away from a “balanced literacy” approach, teaching reading by exposing children to books, with less attention to sounding out words through phonics-based instruction. Research has shown that phonics can be important for beginning readers but that some strategies used in balanced literacy learning, including guessing words and letting students choose many of the books they read, may not suit students who are struggling.
Balanced literacy made a comeback in New York City public schools when Carmen Fariña was the chancellor, from 2014 to 2018. But Banks has said that the approach failed many Black and Latino children. Just under half of New York City students passed state reading tests last spring.
Elementary principals will soon begin a training course in the science of reading that is used by many school systems nationwide. Susan Neuman, an early literacy development expert at New York University, said she was concerned about resistance to changes.
“Every time there’s been some attempt to create a consistent curriculum, there’s been pushback — and the effort collapses,” she said. “I worry we’re going to fail again.”
The programs that Adams announced in May began with the new academic year in September, and other schools have changed the way students with dyslexia are taught, among them P.S. 11 in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. There, Anthony Cruz is sounding confident for the first time. It’s a happy contrast to when Anthony, 8, complained about going to school and brought home failing grades on reading assignments.
He now spends about half of his morning reading class in a special literacy session with one other student. In a large classroom, teachers might not have noticed that he was puzzled when told to drop a letter from “rust” to form “rut” or to change a letter in “rut” to form “run.” But the reading specialist said, “Listen. Look at my mouth,” and told Anthony to break down the words, sound by sound. That strategy is at the heart of the at the heart of something called the Orton-Gilligham approach, developed in the 1930s for children with “word-blindness,” which later came to be called dyslexia.
Getting his literacy skills to his grade level will be a long-term effort. But when Anthony learned that the mayor shared his learning disability, he grinned.
“I feel like I’m the only one who has dyslexia,” he said, “so I was really happy.”
Off to Paris
It was 1995, and I was about to leave the city to move to Paris and get married. I loved Paris, but I knew I would miss New York terribly.
I decided to have one last coffee at a cafe in the East Village. As I did, a very large man who was wearing a poodle skirt and pink kitten heels and holding a small blue suitcase walked by.
I’m leaving this town, he said petulantly.
Me too, I thought sadly. Me too.
— Kimberly Butler
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.