Governor Hochul appoints trans judge to Court of Claims

Seth Marnin will be the first out trans judge in New York State.
Seth Marnin will be the first out trans judge in New York State.
Columbia University

Governor Kathy Hochul on June 7 announced the historic appointment of Seth Marnin to the New York State Court of Claims, which would make him the first out trans judge in the state and, according to the governor’s office, the first out trans man to serve as a judge in the United States.

The news of Marnin’s appointment came as the Hochul administration announced a fresh slate of 11 picks for the state’s Court of Claims, including four reappointments and 11 new appointees. The state’s Court of Claims handles cases in which parties seek damages against New York State or state-base entities.

“I have full faith that this historic and outstanding group of appointees will serve New Yorkers with fairness and impartiality,” Governor Hochul said in a written statement. “With diverse perspectives and extensive expertise, I’m confident that each appointee will bring honor and integrity to New York State’s judiciary.”

Marnin was one of three out LGBTQ judges included in the governor’s announcement, along with David Fried of Rockland County and Brian Haak of Albany County, according to the LGBT Bar Association of New York.

Marnin works at Columbia University as the director of training and education, equality opportunity, and affirmative action. He previously served as founder and principal of Workplace Strategies to assist non-profits with legal issues. He was once the deputy director for The Center for HIV Law and Policy and is currently part of the New York City Bar Association. He is vice president of civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League.

“I am honored by the Governor’s appointment and look forward to the Senate hearing tomorrow,” Marnin told Gay City News in a June 7 written statement one day before the start of his State Senate confirmation hearing. “It was not so long ago that a trans person becoming a judge was unimaginable. I hope my nomination and service inspires young trans people and that I can serve as a role model.”

According to Columbia University’s website, Marnin started his career in the student affairs and residential life office at the University of Albany and subsequently became the director of the University of Connecticut’s LGBTQ resources. From there, he went to work in employment law at Outten and Golden LLP. He earned his bachelor’s degree in women’s’ studies and sociology and his master’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Albany. He received his JD from the University of Connecticut School of law.

The appointment of Marnin, who is a member of the New York City Bar Association, comes one year after Anthony Cannataro, an out gay judge, was tapped to serve as the acting chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. He was already a member of the Court of Appeals since he was appointed by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2021. The late Court of Appeals Judge Paul Feinman, who died in 2021, was the first out LGBTQ member of the state’s highest court.