Sandra Slack Glover says she regretted vouching for Amy Coney Barrett, a contemporary as Supreme Court clerks. Watching is Sen. Ceci Maher and Rep. Dominique Johnson. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

After a contentious public hearing and public backlash, attorney Sandra Slack Glover withdrew her nomination to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The members of the Judiciary Committee seem to have reminded Gov. Ned Lamont that he ran for re-election on a platform saying “I believe in Connecticut. We are creating a place where all our families can find hope and opportunity — a state we are proud to call home.” As evidenced by her letter of support for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is an extreme conservative, anti-abortion voice on the court without the best interest of our people at heart, it was not clear that Glover’s nomination advanced such a vision of the state.

As part of the CT Pro-People Judiciary Coalition, we have a different idea of what kind of a justice would best represent Connecticut’s values and ensure that all families can find hope and opportunity.

Glover received significant pushback based on the letter for Barrett, and this criticism was well-earned. However, as State Sen. Gary Winfield has stated, the letter only opened the door to other issues with this nomination. There are currently three justices on the Supreme Court with prior experience as prosecutors, out of only six sitting justices–approving Glover’s nomination would have made the fourth prosecutor on the bench.

Glaringly, there is not a single justice with experience in public defense, legal aid, or civil rights on the Connecticut Supreme Court. These are the fields that bring attorneys closest to the intersection of the law and the lived experiences of the most marginalized among us, and give them unique insights into the actual impacts of the law on people; they must have a seat on our state’s highest court. The people that CTJA serves need a seat at the table, and the closest that they can get to that seat in our system is through an attorney dedicated to working with them rather than with powerful interests like the state or corporations.

The nomination of yet another prosecutor to our state’s highest court was a slap in the face to those of us who work with criminalized youth and others victimized by the systemically racist carceral system that prosecutors are committed to uphold. You wouldn’t know it from the vignettes about helping to release the wrongly accused from prison that were shared at Glover’s hearing, but the typical work of an appellate prosecutor looks more like defending sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, pushing for federal sentencing enhancements when they may not actually apply, and fighting for the deportation of defendants whose infractions may not actually qualify for removal.

Even Glover’s mention of handling civil cases rather than only criminal ones belies the fact that those civil cases have involved defending takings claims brought by tribes, opposing compassionate release of disabled people who are incarcerated at high risk of COVID-19 complications, and defending civil forfeiture of assets from individuals who may not have been aware of the involvement of those assets in the commission of a crime.

All of these examples come from dockets on which Sandra Slack Glover has appeared. This is the work of an appellate prosecutor. This is not the work of someone who can be a part of building a Connecticut that is fair and just, and Glover was simply a symptom of a larger problem, which needs to be addressed on the bench.

As troubling as cases like these are, they are not unusual, which is why the fact that our State Supreme Court is already dominated by prosecutors is a huge problem. Empirical studies have shown that prosecution experience makes judges more likely to impose harsh criminal sentences and to side with employers over workers in discrimination and other employment disputes, and those are the only examples that have been studied. Spending a career fighting for carceral interests pushes people to continue to advance those interests as judges, and we do not need even more judges with carceral mindsets in Connecticut.

The Judiciary Committee has an opportunity to send a message to Governor Lamont that we will only accept pro-people nominees to our higher courts. We need more pro-people judges who have represented the people rather than the powerful, and now is the time to draw a line in the sand. We need more judges who have fought to keep people in their homes, ensure that they are treated fairly at work and school, and keep them out of prison, rather than yet another prosecutor. 

We urge the members of the Judiciary Committee to use their influence to encourage Governor Lamont to put forward a pro-people nominee with experience representing individuals rather than powerful interests like the state and corporations.

It is time that we push for and expect that our government represents the most vulnerable among us, and the courts are no exception. It is time for more pro-people justices on the Connecticut Supreme Court, and Governor Lamont should start by naming a public defender, legal aid, labor, or civil rights attorney to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Christina Quaranta of Milford is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Justice Alliance.