The New York County Democratic Committee voted Thursday to nominate an Asian-American state judge hailed as a gay rights champion for reelection, according to people with knowledge of the judicial convention, reversing a controversial decision to keep her off the ballot this November.
The nomination of Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, the first Asian-American woman elected to State Supreme Court in 2002, comes more than three weeks after the Manhattan committee initially declined to give her the party's nod.
Quoting unnamed sources, the New York Post reported in late August that the committee’s Independent Judicial Screening Panel determined that Ling-Cohan, who serves in the appellate division, was "lazy" and "slow" in dealing with her caseload.
Ling-Cohan's supporters, including members of various bar associations and elected officials, dismissed those allegations and staged an early September rally at City Hall, where they defended the judge's judicial record.
"I am very pleased that she has been partially vindicated," Bridgette Y. Ahn, president of the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York, told NBC News in an email. “This incident was highly disturbing as this screen panel has historically rubber-stamped incumbent judges in the absence of pending formal charges, and/or ethics complaints.”
The New York County Democratic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday about Ling-Cohan’s nomination.
Among the cases Ling-Cohan has heard was Hernandez v. Robles, in which she ruled in 2005 that barring same-sex couples from marrying violated New York's constitution. That decision was overturned on appeal, but New York later passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011, which was signed into law the same year.
Ahn said that while Ling-Cohan’s nomination was a positive result, the judge will bear the responsibility of clearing her name. She added that Ling-Cohan’s case also raises concerns about the judicial screening process, a requirement for candidates to appear on the ballot under the Democratic party.
“There will be lingering questions about how to give judicial candidates due process in the presence of procedural irregularities, and the potential effect of special interests on screening panels, which could affect judicial independence,” Ahn said.