For many years, New York’s Chief Judge (along with the Associate Judges of the Court of Appeals) was selected by popular vote. That’s precisely how Benjamin N. Cardozo—the paradigm, and perhaps America’s greatest common law judge—gained his position on the Court. No confirmation vote by Senators who might be motivated by preserving their own agenda. No assemblage of law professors, bar associations, politicians or anyone else influencing the Governor, arguing over who would be a “terrible mistake.”
With an election system, New York wasn’t always successful in the Court of Appeals judges its citizenry elected, particularly given that the politics of the day is always at play. Reformers managed to change the system by statute. So, for the last 50 years or so, New York’s sitting governor has nominated the Chief Judge, now from among seven candidates presented to the Governor by an independent Commission on Judicial Nomination. The Governor selects a nominee, who then must be confirmed by the State Senate.