Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made Wednesday what are likely to be his last nominations to a Supreme Court already dominated by his appointees, nominating Judges Raheem L. Mullins and Maria Araujo Kahn, both of whom he had previously placed on the Appellate Court.
“It is an honor to nominate two highly respected Appellate Court judges for elevation onto our state’s highest court,” Malloy said. “They both have had impressive careers, and during their time on the bench have become among our state’s most respected jurists.”
Malloy also named Superior Court Judge William H. Bright Jr. to the Appellate Court to fill one of the vacancies opened by the elevation of Mullins and Kahn. Another nomination to the Appellate Court is forthcoming, while the governor says he will not fill any Superior Court vacancies until a budget is adopted.
To varying degrees, Mullins and Kahn have been on judicial fast tracks, their careers boosted by a governor intent on improving the diversity of the judicial system. Each is likely to have long tenures on the court, with 31 years until Mullins reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 and 17 years for Kahn.
The other three Malloy appointees on the Supreme Court range in age from 51 to 59, meaning his five appointees could be a majority on the seven-member court for 11 years.
Mullins succeeds Dennis G. Eveleigh, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Kahn succeeds Carmen E. Espinosa, who took senior status.
Mullins, 39, of Cromwell was a 33-year-old appellate lawyer in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney when Malloy nominated him to the Superior Court in 2012. Malloy elevated him to the Appellate Court two years later.
He has a law degree from Northeastern University.
“He’s very smart, young and had a pretty quick rise, deserved,” said Daniel J. Krisch, a co-chair of the Connecticut Bar Association’s appellate section.
Kahn, 53, of Cheshire is a former federal prosecutor named to the Superior Court in 2006 by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and to the Appellate Court by Malloy last May. She was born in Angola to Portuguese parents and emigrated from Africa to the U.S. as a 10-year-old.
She has a law degree from Fordham University.
The two appointments are Malloy’s sixth and seventh nominations to the Supreme Court. (Two have retired or taken senior status, a form of semi-retirement.)
“They are legacy picks in different but similar ways,” Krisch said. “We will have a court, when they are confirmed, that looks demographically a lot like Connecticut.”
Two of the court’s justices will be African Americans and two will be women.
Malloy has made diversity part of the criteria for his judicial selections, but he downplayed it Wednesday.
“It was not a driving factor,” Malloy said. He smiled and added, “Older and middle-aged white guys, they get to serve, too.”
Bright, 55, of Columbia was named to the Superior Court in 2008 by Rell. He has a law degree from the University of Chicago and was a partner at McCarter & English in Hartford before becoming a judge.
With their confirmations by the legislature, five of the seven justices on the Supreme Court will be appointees of Malloy, a Democrat who has been governor since January 2011.
Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, 60, was named to the court by Rell in 2007. The longest-serving justice is Richard N. Palmer, 67, who was appointed by Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1993.
Judges and justices are appointed to eight-year terms by governors, who must select from candidates screened and approved by a bipartisan judicial selection commission. Barring issues of infirmity or incompetence, jurists are routinely reappointed until age 70.
Malloy’s previous appointees to the Supreme and Appellate courts are:
Lubbie Harper Jr.*
Andrew J. McDonald
Richard A. Robinson
Gregory T. D’Auria
*Harper retired and was succeeded by McDonald. Espinosa has taken senior status.
Michael R. Sheldon
Christine E. Keller
Eliot D. Prescott
Raheem L. Mullins*
Nina F. Elgo
Maria Araujo Kahn*
*Espinosa was later appointed to the Supreme Court. Mullins and Kahn are awaiting confirmation to the Supreme Court.