Democratic leaders: No deal on judges

Democratic legislative leaders today said they will not act on the deal between Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Judicial Branch over nine judicial nominations until an overall budget agreement is reached.

“A few weeks ago I made it clear to the governor, that with the issue of judges and the judicial [branch] budget, I would view that as part of the entire budget. We need to resolve the entire 2011 budget and resolve the deficit issue there before I would want to move anything separate forward,” said Sen. Pro Tem Donald E. Williams, Jr., D-Brooklyn. “What I want to see is an agreement as to the entire budget not just the Judicial Branch piecemeal.”

Democratic and Republican leaders met with Rell today regarding a deal she made with the Judicial Branch yesterday to move forward her nine judge nominations in exchange for giving the judiciary greater fiscal autonomy and canceling $7.8 million in cuts that were to take place by the end of the fiscal year in June.

Democratic leadership said the deal only guaranteed that the nominations would make it out of the Judiciary Committee and not be confirmed by the House and Senate.

Republican leaders were quick to accuse Democrats of playing political games with the judges, saying the judges were being “held hostage.”

“I think they should move forward,” said Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney of Fairfield. “If the goal is to say we are going to solve all our problems at once then we shouldn’t be passing any bills in the House and Senate. … We should shut down the House and Senate.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence W. Cafero of Norwalk agreed, “Every single bill we do has an impact on the budget.”

The nine nominees are facing confirmation hearings today before the Judiciary Committee, where another issue arose: the lack of racial diversity in the group.

Rell chose 10 white lawyers, one of whom withdrew for unrelated reasons earlier this week. By tradition, she allowed Williams and Donovan to each put forward two of the 10 selections.