Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday nominated Superior Court Judge Carmen Espinosa, a former FBI agent and the state’s first Hispanic judge, to the state Appellate Court.

Espinosa, 62, of Southington, who was appointed to the bench in 1992 by Lowell P. Weicker Jr., would be the first Hispanic member of the Appellate Court. She succeeds Lubbie Harper Jr., Malloy’s recent nominee for the Supreme Court.

“I cannot thank you enough for this tremendous honor,” Espinosa told Malloy.

Espinosa, the first in her family to attend college, described her parents’ migration from Puerto Rico to New York in 1952, an eight-hour flight aboard a Pan Am propeller-driven plane. The family settled in New Britain, where her father was a laborer, her mother a factory worker.

“They could not have fathomed in their wildest imaginings that one day their youngest daughter would stand here as a nominee to be a judge on the second highest court in Connecticut,” Espinosa said.

Her mother, Anada, sat stoically in the front row, watching Malloy introduce her daughter. When Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman complimented the judge’s mother on her composure, tears started running down her cheeks. Wyman bent over and hugged her.

Malloy’s first two judicial appointments have been minority-group members, a recognition of the long struggle in Connecticut to increase diversity on the bench. But both nominations are elevations, from one court to another. The governor has yet to fill a vacancy at the trial level, the Superior Court.

He said he will not consider filling any of the 14 vacancies until a budget is adopted for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Espinosa, who has spoken out about the need for more bilingual attorneys in Connecticut, said she hoped her appointment would help encourage Latinos to consider a career in the law.

Espinosa attended public schools in New Britain and graduated from Central Connecticut State College in 1971, her ambition to become a language teacher. She has a master’s degree from Brown and a law degree from George Washington University.

Espinosa joined the FBI after law school and later became an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut. She was a federal prosecutor for 12 years, until Weicker named her a judge.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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