Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after his original nominee for chief justice was rejected.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after his original nominee for chief justice was rejected.

The unwillingness of Republican gubernatorial candidates to commit to Connecticut’s longstanding tradition of reappointing judges, absent serious ethical or performance issues, undermines the judiciary, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday.

At a GOP forum Wednesday, the Republican candidates said they would not follow the practice followed by Malloy and his predecessors: At the end of a judge’s eight-year term, the judge is automatically nominated for another term, absent cause.

One of the candidates, Peter Lumaj, said he wouldn’t support anyone who is an activist judge who “wants to legislate from the bench.” Another, Dave Walker, said, “We need to determine if they are an activist judge or not.” 

 “Make no mistake about it, ‘activist judge’ is a thinly veiled guise of applying a litmus test on judicial nominees,” Malloy said. “They should be ashamed of themselves for the damage that they continue to do to our courts.”

None of the nine candidates said they would automatically reappoint judges nominated by a predecessor. Judges of the Superior, Appellate and Supreme courts are appointed by governors to eight-year terms, subject to legislative confirmation. By tradition, they are reappointed until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

“This is not tradition for tradition’s sake,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, the governor’s former legal counsel and a Democratic gubernatorial contender. “It is this tradition that preserves the independence of the judiciary.”

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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