NY Governor Cuomo nominates Rivera ’82 to state appeals court
Jenny Rivera ’82 was nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York Court of Appeals on Jan. 15 and is currently awaiting confirmation by the State Senate. A law professor at the City University of New York who has been in as many classrooms as courtrooms in her multifaceted career, Rivera has a long history of political activism.
Rivera’s “legal expertise and passion for social justice will serve all New Yorkers well, and I am proud to send her nomination to the Senate today,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing the nomination.
Rivera declined to comment until after the confirmation process. The New York Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Feb. 4 on her nomination to the Court of Appeals and must decide whether to approve it by mid-February.
While at the University, Rivera concentrated in history and was an officer of Hispanic cultural group Accion Puertorriquena. Her thesis explored primary education in Puerto Rico from 1898 to 1921. Rivera later obtained degrees from New York University School of Law and Columbia University.
Since then, Rivera has held numerous positions in law, academia and public service, serving as a legal clerk, a lawyer for homeless families and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and most recently, a professor of law and the director of CUNY’s Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality. In 2007, Cuomo appointed her as New York’s Special Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights.
“She’s a very serious scholar, someone who takes her work seriously in both teaching and scholarship and her service work to the community,” said Michelle J. Anderson, the Dean of CUNY School of Law. “She’s someone who is very well respected among her colleagues.”
According to Anderson, Rivera — who is Puerto Rican and is a longtime advocate for the rights of Latinos — is influenced by her identity and cultural experience. At CUNY, Rivera teaches both traditional courses on topics such as property, civil procedure and administrative law, and a special course focusing on the interaction between Latinos and the law.
“I think that our racial and gender identities affect all of us, and Jenny has tried to be reflective about the ways that race and gender and national origin affect the law,” Anderson said.
On her CUNY professor profile, Rivera wrote that she is honored to teach at the law school because it allows her to teach the next generation of public interest lawyers who will represent the indigent and those without access to legal services.
In 1993, Rivera clerked for fellow alumna Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76, who was then a federal district judge in Manhattan. Sixteen years later, when President Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and was harshly criticized by conservatives, Rivera rose to national prominence by defending the nominee in national media outlets like the New York Times, NBC News and National Public Radio.
“The conservative strategy to challenge Sotomayor’s intelligence, experience and judicial temperament failed,” Rivera wrote in a 2009 editorial in Politico. “The judge’s record, reviewed by academics and lawyers, establishes … that her style of engagement and inquiry reveals her commitment to excellence.”
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