Nora Dannehy and colleagues in New Haven following the sentencing of former Gov. John G. Rowland in 2005. Stephen Dunn / Courtesy Hartford Courant

Gov. Ned Lamont is vetting Nora R. Dannehy, who led the federal prosecution of the corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland in 2004 and more recently served as Lamont’s chief counsel, as a nominee to the state Supreme Court.

Sources said Tuesday his administration has reached out to lawmakers to gauge support for a Dannehy nomination, a step not taken last spring when Sandra Slack Glover, his original choice for the vacancy, failed to clear the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Nora Dannehy

“We’ve got somebody in mind,” Lamont acknowledged Monday, declining then to share the name. “I’ve just got to talk it through with a lot of people.”

Dannehy, 62, a long-time federal prosecutor and former deputy attorney general of Connecticut, is the lawyer who resigned in September 2020 as second-in-command of the inquiry into how the FBI handled its probe into connections between Russia and the campaign of Donald J. Trump.

Dannehy never publicly explained her resignation, but the New York Times reported in January that she had quit to protest what she saw as the politicization of the probe and prosecutorial missteps countenanced by the special counsel, John H. Durham.

Lamont is facing a soft deadline to make a nomination to the seven-seat Supreme Court if it is to be considered when the General Assembly returns for a one-day special session on Sept. 26. Lawmakers are allowed as many as 30 days to act on a judicial nomination.

Administration officials and legislative leaders were meeting Tuesday to finalize the call for the special session, a formal statement prescribing what can be taken up.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Senate President Pro Term Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the call would focus on two items: Confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee and passage of a bipartisan bill moving the presidential primary from the last Tuesday in April to the first.

Lamont hired Dannehy as his general counsel in early 2019, a post she held for the final two years of the Democratic governor’s first term. 

She in January left to join Cowdery & Murphy, the same boutique Hartford law firm where Steven D. Ecker was a partner before becoming a Superior Court judge in 2014 and an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2018.

Like Ecker, Dannehy is a graduate of Harvard Law School. She is a member of a family prominent in Connecticut legal circles: her late father, Joseph Dannehy, was a Connecticut Supreme Court justice, and her older brother, Michael R. Dannehy, is a retired Superior Court judge.

Dannehy faces potential pushback over a career spent mainly as a prosecutor, albeit one who focused on public corruption and complex white-collar crimes. Advocates have urged Lamont to cast a broader net for nominees to the Supreme Court, as well as the trial and intermediate appellate courts.

Unlike Glover, who had no relationships with lawmakers, Dannehy is a known and well-regarded by legislative leaders.

Lamont is all but certain to nominate a woman to succeed Maria Araújo Kahn, the associate justice who resigned from the Supreme Court to accept a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals, leaving five men, one woman and one vacancy on the state’s highest court.

If he nominates Dannehy, the governor is opting against the safer political path of elevating one of five women who are currently serving as judges of the nine-member Appellate Court and have gone through confirmation hearings.

“I want the best person for the job. I really need that person,” Lamont said.

His staff had no comment Tuesday on Lamont’s talks with lawmakers about Dannehy. 

Dannehy could not be reached.

Glover, 52, the appellate chief for the U.S. attorney of Connecticut and a former law clerk to Sandra Day O’Connor, could not overcome legislative concerns about her commitment to upholding Connecticut’s strong reproductive rights laws.

She had been recommended by Dannehy.

While Glover testified at her confirmation hearing her belief that the U.S. Supreme Court had wrongly overturned Roe v. Wade, she had signed a letter supporting the nomination in 2017 of Amy Coney Barrett to a federal appeals court, a stepping stone to her later joining the Supreme Court as a key vote against Roe.

Like Glover, Coney Barrett was a U.S. Supreme Court clerk during the October 1998 term. The letter was signed by the every surviving clerk from that term. Some lawmakers also expressed reservations about Glover’s lack of experience in state courts.

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.