Troubled judicial nominee withdraws

Assistant State’s Attorney Brian J. Leslie dropped his bid Monday to become a Superior Court judge, one day after a newspaper columnist detailed a $725,000 payment that the state made to settle a wrongful prosecution complaint against Leslie.

Leslie, one of 10 lawyers recently nominated by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to serve on the Superior Court, was facing an uphill confirmation fight over what critics say was his improper prosecution of a doctor on Medicaid fraud charges. He faced a confirmation hearing Friday.

“Upon further reflection, it with with a heavy heart that I must ask that my name be withdrawn from consideration as a Superior Court Judge,” he wrote in a letter to Rell. “This decision was not an easy one to make, but given all the circumstances, I believe it is the correct decision.”

Rell’s press office declined to say if the governor or her advisers were aware of Leslie’s history when she nominated him to the bench. The state settled Dr. Richard B. Weber’s case against Leslie and other state officials in 2008.

Leslie, 42, of Wallingford is a Republican who had been a prosecutor since 2000. He is a 1990 graduate of Fairfield University and received his law degree from Boston College in 1994. He worked previously as an attorney for Farrell, Leslie & Grochowski from 1994 to 2000.

Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, the co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the Leslie nomination is the latest example of the Rell administration’s failure to appropriately investigate its nominees.

“She does this all the time,” he said.

The remaining nominees face a confirmation problem that has nothing to do with their qualifications. Legislators may be reluctant to confirm any judges until the budget is resolved.

“The issue isn’t them,” Lawlor said. “It’s whether judicial can afford to pay them.”