Cuomo Nominates Gay Judge to State’s Highest Court

If confirmed, Anthony "Tony" Cannataro would become the second LGBTQ judge on the state's highest court following the death of Paul Feinman, the first openly gay man on the bench.
Photo via Schneps Media

Governor Andrew Cuomo has tapped out gay Judge Anthony “Tony” Cannataro to the New York State Court of Appeals. If confirmed by the State Senate, he would become the second LGBTQ judge appointed to the state’s highest court.

Cannataro’s nomination comes two months after Paul Feinman, the first out gay man to serve in the position, abruptly died after announcing his retirement. Now Cuomo is seeking to fill the trailblazer’s vacancy with Cannataro, a civil court judge and a justice on the New York State Supreme Court. Cuomo also nominated Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Greek American woman, who would take the spot of retiring Judge Leslie Stein.

Cannataro has continued to rise through the ranks over the years. He got his start in 2012 in New York County Civil Court and then Kings County Family Court before shifting to the Bronx County Civil Court. He subsequently became an acting justice of the New York County Supreme Court and was elected to the Supreme Court in 2017. He became administrative judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York in 2018.

Cannataro, who received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1993 and a law degree from New York Law School in 1996, is also co-chair of the Richard C. Failla LGBT Commission of the New York State Courts.

Previous interviews with Cannataro have offered some insight into his perception of those who come before him in court. Last year Cannataro told Schneps Media that there is a stereotype that judges are “not sensitive to the needs of the litigants that appear in front of us,” but he affirmed that “judges are regular people. We come in all different types, sizes, and backgrounds.”

The LGBT Bar Association of New York, an LGBTQ legal group, applauded Cannataro’s nomination.

 “Today’s announcement is bittersweet. Judge Feinman was a trailblazer who leaves behind a profound legacy,” Eric Lesh, the executive director of the LGBT Bar Association of New York, said in a written statement. “Nevertheless, the LGBT Bar of New York is confident that a jurist of the highest quality will fill the seat left vacant by Judge Feinman’s passing. With the appointment of Justice Cannataro, the Court of Appeals will once again have a member who has a deep commitment to, strong relationship with, and understanding of the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Cannataro’s nomination was also welcomed by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, an LGBTQ political club.

“Congratulations Anthony Cannataro on being nominated to the Court of Appeals!” the group wrote in a tweet. “He is the 2nd LGBTQ judge appointed to the court following the recently deceased Judge Feinman.”

Cannataro is the son of Italian immigrants and lives with his husband in Washington Heights.

To sign up for the Gay City News email newsletter, visit gaycitynews.com/newsletter.

More from Around NYC