Gov. Ned Lamont is taking a cautious approach to filling a Supreme Court vacancy after his last nominee, an accomplished federal prosecutor with little experience in state court, failed to win legislative confirmation in May.
Lamont said Tuesday he is unlikely to make another nomination until the 2024 session of the General Assembly, limiting the risk in making an interim appointment that could be rejected by lawmakers in February.
“I think we’re going to take our time,” Lamont said.
He made his comments after the ceremonial swearing in of 20 new Superior Court judges and two family court magistrates, who were nominated on March 29 and confirmed without incident before the legislature adjourned last month.
With the ability of lower-court judges to temporarily sit on the Supreme Court by designation, the Lamont administration sees no urgency in making another nomination.
Sandra Slack Glover, the appellate chief for the U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, withdrew as Lamont’s nominee on May 19 after the legislature’s Judiciary Committee declined to endorse her to the House and Senate.
Judges nominated when lawmakers are out of session can serve after a hearing and affirmative vote by the committee, but they face a full confirmation process at the next session, including votes by both chambers.
“I think a lot of the folks that we’ve talked to want to make sure that the legislature’s in session [when] we get this done, [so] they’re not at risk,” Lamont said. “It was a little erratic, the process last time. We want to wait and get it right.”
Rejections of a state Supreme Court nominee are exceedingly rare in Connecticut. Unlike Glover, they most often come from the ranks of Superior or Appellate court judges who already have gone through a confirmation hearing.
Lamont said he probably would consider the advantages of elevating a lower-court judge in making his next nomination, though he noted that there is ample precedent for direct nominations to the high court.
“Not everybody went up through the Superior Court system, but obviously the Judiciary Committee felt a little more comfortable that way,” Lamont said.
Two of the six currently serving justices, Andrew J. McDonald and Gregory T. D’Auria, were nominated and confirmed without serving on a lower-court bench.
“In each of those instances, the individual was a known commodity within the state legal community and, frankly, a known commodity with the legislature as well,” said Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, the Judiciary Committee co-chair.
McDonald was the Senate co-chair of Judiciary and general counsel to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before his nomination in 2013. D’Auria was the state solicitor general when confirmed in 2017.
Glover was wounded by her lack of state experience and questions about her commitment to upholding reproductive rights laws.
She spoke forcefully at her hearing of her belief that the U.S. Supreme Court wrongly decided the Dobbs case that overturned Roe v. Wade, ending nearly 50 years of federal protections for the right to an abortion before fetal viability.
But she had joined with every other clerk from the 1998-99 term of the U.S. Supreme Court in signing a letter supporting their former colleague, Amy Coney Barrett, when she was nominated to the federal appeals bench in 2017.
Barrett, who had been a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, was Donald J. Trump’s choice in 2020 to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, giving conservatives the majority that led to the demise of Roe.
Glover was nominated to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Maria Araujo Kahn to become a federal appeals judge.
Lamont is all but certain to name a woman to the high court, where five men and one woman currently serve.
Justice Joan K. Alexander, the sole woman, was a Superior Court judge for 20 years before Lamont nominated her to the Appellate Court in 2020 and the Supreme Court in 2022.
Five of the nine judges of the Appellate Court are women.