Rowan Wilson is a corporate lawyer who specializes in antitrust, intellectual property, and civil rights law. He appeared at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early February for questioning related to his nomination for the New York Court of Appeals by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Wilson has never served as a judge before. Instead, he has represented many individuals and big name corporations, including IBM and Time Warner. He was unanimously confirmed in early February.
Questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee
The Committee Chair John Bonacic asked questions related to Wilson’s experience and character at a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee in early February. He asked Wilson specifically about his temperament. Wilson noted that the New York State Bar Association told him that no one said anything bad about him when it reviewed his nomination, but Wilson did offer some unique criticism of his own.
Wilson worked at a prestigious New York City law firm for roughly 30 years. He noted that during that time, his colleagues expressed concern that he was not “yelling at anyone,” taking his good nature as a sign that he did not care enough about his job. Wilson explained that yelling at people is just “part of [his] make up.” Of course, it is good quality for a judge who must make rational and well-reasoned decisions. Wilson has been described as “low-key and self-effacing” and soft-spoken.
New York Confirmation with National Undertones
Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan noted that he wanted to confirm a judge that was going to maintain the essential notions of separation of powers, “and be able to stand up to all other branches of government.” Hoylman also referenced President Donald Trump’s tweets that criticized various judges who challenged his executive order regarding immigration. Wilson noted that he was a long-time student of Alexander Hamilton and admired and revered the notion of separation of powers within both the federal and state government structures.
The confirmation hearing was certainly more civil than the heated partisan fights taking place in Washington regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominees. In fact, Wilson was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, and the full chamber approved just hours later.
Adding a Unique Perspective to the Highest Court in New York
This will be the second time that a sitting Governor will have nominated all of the members of the New York Court of Appeals located in Albany, NY. Only Gov. Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, has also selected all of the members of the highest court in New York.
While Gov. Cuomo has chosen all of the judges, they are not all “ultra-liberals.” As Gov. Cuomo leans progressive or moderate himself, he has chosen a spectrum of qualified individuals to sit on New York’s high court.
Wilson brings unique experiences and background to the court, which is something that Governor Andrew Cuomo had in mind in making his nomination. This will be the first time that New York has had two African-American judges sitting at once. The remaining judges also include two Hispanic judges and four women judges. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore was also a former Westchester County District Attorney.
Wilson is expected to be rationale judge that will bring his perspective as an active litigator to the bench. Gov. Cuomo also praises him for his compassion, intellect, and integrity.