Gov. Dannel P. Malloy introduced Appellate Judge Richard A. Robinson Tuesday as his choice for a vacancy on the Connecticut Supreme Court, saying the nomination is the first of about a dozen judicial appointments he expects to make before the General Assembly convenes its 2014 session in February.

Malloy’s nominee for the fourth opening on the state’s highest court since he became governor three years ago is a lawyer who worked for him in Stamford City Hall, served as chairman of the state’s civil rights enforcement agency and a general counsel to the state NAACP, then began a career as a judge with a recommendation from Malloy and an appointment by a Republican governor, John G. Rowland.

If confirmed by the General Assembly, Robinson will succeed  Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr., who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. By coincidence, Malloy announced the nomination on Robinson’s birthday. Smiling, Malloy turned to his nominee after introducing him at the State Capitol and said, “Happy birthday, Rick.”

Robinson, 56, of Stratford, a judge for 13 years at the trial and appellate levels, was a lawyer for the city of Stamford for 15 years, including the first five of Malloy’s 14 years as mayor. He was named to the Superior Court by Rowland in 2000 and elevated to the Appellate Court by Gov. M. Jodi Rell in late 2007.

“In his years on both the Superior and Appellate Courts, he has won respect of his peers on the bench and attorneys throughout the state as a dedicated, thoughtful and measured jurist,” Malloy said.

The first-term Democratic governor has made judicial diversity a goal, and his previous appointments to the state’s highest court include Carmen Espinosa, the first Latina on the court, and Andrew McDonald, its first openly gay jurist. His other two nominees, Lubbie Harper Jr. and Robinson, were only the third and fourth black men named to the court.

“That’s not simply talking about race or other backgrounds,” Malloy said Tuesday of his belief in diversity. “I’m looking for justices who have good common sense and understand real-life situations. And, quite frankly, if they pull for the underdog once in a while, that wouldn’t bother me.”

Robinson, the only black judge on the Appellate Court, will succeed the only black member of the Supreme Court. Harper, who was Malloy’s first appointment to the Supreme Court, served two years before reaching mandatory retirement age.

“I am truly humbled being considered for this high honor,” Robinson said in brief remarks.

Malloy now has tapped the Appellate Court for three of his four nominees to the Supreme Court. The exception was McDonald, a former Senate co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committe who was the governor’s first general counsel.

The nomination is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly, but Robinson has been confirmed twice before, to the Superior Court and Appellate Court. Malloy said he expects to nominate a successor to the Appellate Court and perhaps a dozen others to the Superior Court in the coming weeks or months.

Robinson graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1979 and the West Virginia University School of Law in 1984.

He was hired as a lawyer in Stamford City Hall in 1985, working in the city law department, and then as an assistant corporation counsel. As a judge, he has risen through the ranks, serving as a presiding judge in the Ansonia and Milford Judicial District and the Stamford and Norwalk Judicial District.

He is married and the father of two.

His appointment was the first judicial nomination made by Malloy since january.

The list of Malloy’s appointments:

Lubbie Harper Jr.*
Andrew J. McDonald
Carmen Espinosa
Richard A. Robinson*

* Harper retired and was succeeded by McDonald. Robinson is awaiting confirmation.

Carmen Espinosa*
Michael R. Sheldon
Christine E. Keller

 *Espinosa was later appointed to Supreme Court.

Sybil Richards
Leeland J. Cole-Chu
Anna M. Ficeto
Donna Nelson Heller
Raheem L. Mullins
Maureen McCabe Murphy
Kenneth B. Povodator
Michael A. Albis
Thomas D. Colin
Melanie L. Cradle
Karen A. Goodrow
Sheila A. Huddleston
Michael P. Kamp
Charles T. Lee
Jason M. Lobo
Shelley A. Marcus
Maurice B. Mosley
Thomas G. Moukawsher
Andrew Roraback
Hope Colleen Seeley
Robyn Stewart Johnson
Anthony D. Truglia Jr.

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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