The Connecticut legislature Friday ignored an NRA campaign to block the judicial nomination of a former legislator who co-sponsored the post-Newtown gun control law, voting overwhelmingly to confirm Auden C. Grogins of Bridgeport as a judge of the Superior Court.
The vote was 125 to 18 in the House and 30 to 4 in the Senate.
Only one senator and no representatives spoke against the confirmation of Grogins, a Democrat who voted as a House member in 2013 to expand firearms background checks and ban the retail sale of large-capacity magazines and military-style weapons in response to the shooting deaths of 26 children and staff in Newtown.
Without mentioning the gun vote, Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, the ranking House Republican on the Judiciary Committee, acknowledged the opposition to Grogins that was registered in calls and emails.
“We certainly received a lot of input regarding this nominee,” Rebimbas said.
Rebimbas, one of 44 House members who voted against the Newtown gun law, said she was supporting Grogins’ nomination, saying her advocacy as a legislator does not compromise her ability to be impartial as a judge.
“She understands the difference,” Rebimbas said. “As a state representative, you are advocating on behalf of your constituents and beliefs.”
Rembimbas was one of four House Republicans to urge a vote for the former Democratic lawmaker. All 18 House members opposing the nomination were Republicans, as were all four opponents in the Senate.
The NRA called her an “anti-gunner” in a message that was circulated to gun owners in Connecticut directly and through an allied group, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League:
“Auden Grogins is no friend of the Second Amendment, and who knows how far she would go with her anti-gun rhetoric as a Superior Court judge. She ignored her Oath of Office as a state Representative, does not respect your constitutionally protected freedoms and cannot be trusted to be an unbiased, impartial arbiter of the law.”
It urged gun owners to call or email their legislators and tell them that a vote for Grogins would be remembered: “Remind your state legislators that you will be closely watching their votes on Second Amendment issues and will hold them accountable during the next election.”
Rep. Selim G. Noujaim, R-Waterbury, said he believed that Grogins, a lawyer in private practice who also is a special public defender, was qualified to be a judge of the state’s trial court. But he voted against her at the urging of constituents.
“We are elected to reflect the opinions of our constituents, and it was an overwhelming response from constituents to vote in the negative,” he said.
Others who voted against Grogins said she was too vague on several questions during her confirmation hearing.
“She didn’t answer anything. That leaves a big question in my mind as to where she stands,” said Rep. Sam Belsito, R-Tolland, who won his seat in a special election with the backing of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.
Rep. John E. Piscopo, R-Thomaston, the former national leader of the American Legislative Exchange, the conservative group better known as ALEC, said Grogins was too liberal.
“She was one of our more liberal legislators, and I hesitated to vote for someone that will promote a liberal agenda on the bench, especially as it comes to the Second Amendment,” Piscopo said.
Most of the legislators who opposed Grogins were endorsed by the gun group.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said he had no trouble voting for nominees with whom he disagreed on “everyday matters.” But he believed her advocacy for the Newtown law betrayed an unwillingness to uphold the Second Amendment and “the rights reserved to us as individuals.”
Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, a retired police officer who voted against the gun law and says he has no reservations in voting against nominees whom he thinks will be activist judges, said he had faith that Grogins could fairly interpret state laws.