Gov. Ned Lamont is expected Wednesday to nominate his general counsel, Robert W. Clark, to the Appellate Court and name a racially diverse class of eight women and seven men as his first picks for the trial court.
Clark, one of 30 trial judges named by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in April 2018 in the last group of Superior Court nominations, left the bench to become Lamont’s legal adviser. On the Appellate Court, he would succeed Douglas S. Lavine, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
The administration shared plans to nominate Clark, who was special counsel to former Attorney General George Jepsen, with legislative leaders in recent days. CT Mirror obtained the names of his Superior Court choices Tuesday.
Clark, 49, of Durham, oversaw the office’s legislative initiatives under Jepsen, which gave him broad background on the issues that came before him as Lamont’s general counsel. For the past year, his office has been consumed with issues arising from the governor’s exercise of emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview last month, Lamont first disclosed his plans to end his informal freeze on Superior Court nominations and fill 15 of the 50 vacancies on the court, which is authorized by the General Assembly to have 185 judges.
While the governor has kept judicial positions open as a budget-saving measure, Lamont said he was looking forward to using some of the vacancies to bring a measure of racial and gender diversity to a court system that is predominantly white and male, despite women reaching parity with men in law schools 20 years ago.
His four previous judicial nominations were to the Appellate and Supreme courts. Three of four were women and two were racial minorities.
As of last July, when Lamont made those nominations, the three tiers of the judicial branch had 118 judges who identified as white, 24 as Black, five as Hispanic, seven as Asian and two as multi-racial. There were 90 men and 66 women.
His new class includes three Black and four Hispanic candidates.
The governor can nominate judges for the Superior, Appellate and Supreme courts only from a pool of candidates screened and endorsed by the Judicial Selection Commission. By tradition, governors often take suggestions from the leaders of the legislative caucuses.
All judicial nominations are subject to confirmation by both chambers of the General Assembly. Appointments are to eight-year terms, with the expectation of reappointment until reaching age 70.
Three of the expected nominees are federal prosecutors: Michael Gustafson of West Hartford, Gordon Hall of New Haven and Ndidi Moses of Seymour. One is a state prosecutor, Chris Pelosi of Berlin.
Lamont’s other selections are: Maximino Medina Jr. of Bridgeport, Linda Allard of West Hartford, John Cirello of of New Haven, William Clark of New Haven, Kimberly Massicotte of Burlington, Carletha Texidor of Southington, Jessica Torres Shlatz of West Hartford, Gladys Idelis Nieves of New Haven, Edward O’Hanlan of Old Lyme, Angelica Papastavros of Killingworth, and Carla Nascimento Zahner of West Hartford.
Allard is a legal aid lawyer, Papastravros a public defender, Nieves a Family Court magistrate and Massicotte, Texidor and Torres Shlatz work for the state attorney general’s office.
Medina Jr. is a partner in Zeldes, Needle & Cooper who has been active in Bridgeport politics. He was one of the Democrats who encouraged Lamont to run for U.S. Senate against Joseph I. Lieberman in 2006.
Clark is the chief operating officer of the Waterbury public schools. O’Hanlan is a partner in Robinson & Cole. Cirello is a founding partner of Cirello & Vessicchio. Zahner practices family law Louden, Katz and McGrath.
With the suspension of jury trials, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily has eased the workload on civil and criminal trial judges in the Superior Court, while creating new stresses as the courts try to function remotely and warily watch a growing backlog.