The General Assembly voted in special session Tuesday to confirm the Connecticut Supreme Court nomination of Nora R. Dannehy, the long-time career prosecutor who quit the Russia-Trump investigation in a quiet protest that eventually became a national story.
Dannehy, 62, of Glastonbury, led the federal corruption investigation of Gov. John G. Rowland nearly 20 years ago and more recently served Gov. Ned Lamont as his general counsel. She also is a former deputy attorney general under George Jepsen.
Passage came on votes of 31-2 in the Senate and 120-18 in the House after relatively brief debates during which the major complaint was her lack of experience as a trial judge before joining Connecticut’s highest court.
Two of the six currently serving justices, Andrew J. McDonald and Gregory T. D’Auria, also were nominated and confirmed without serving on a lower-court bench. Both were nominees of Lamont’s predecessor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
In the Senate, Republicans Rob Sampson of Wolcott and Lisa Seminara of Avon cast the only negative votes. In the House, three Democrats joined 15 Republicans in opposition.
Without offering specifics, Seminara said she opposed Dannehy over her role in drafting and defending Lamont’s “persistent and unrelenting executive orders” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her father died of COVID in a nursing home, she said.
Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, noted Republican concerns about her lack of experience, but complimented Dannehy on her responsiveness at her hearing.
“I was very impressed by her candor,” said Fishbein, who voted for her in committee and on the floor. He said he hoped it became a model for future nominees.
Dannehy will succeed Maria Araujo Kahn, who resigned to become a federal appeals judge.
Dannehy’s smooth confirmation — she was endorsed by the Judiciary Committee on a 30-4 vote after a cordial hearing — stands in contrast to the experience of Lamont’s first nominee for the vacancy, Sandra Slack Glover.
She withdrew from consideration after the Judiciary Committee refused to vote on her confirmation, unable to overcome legislative questions about her commitment to upholding Connecticut’s strong reproductive rights laws.
Glover, 52, the appellate chief for the U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, but she was wounded by a letter she signed in 2017 on behalf of Amy Coney Barrett, the conservative destined to play a pivotal role in ending a woman’s federal right to an abortion.
In a questionnaire Dannehy completed for the Judiciary Committee, she also said the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was wrongly decided as a dramatic break with precedent, ignoring the court’s principle of stare decisis.
“Without commenting or pre-judging how I would rule in any particular matter should I move forward in this process, I think the legal philosophy applied by the majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was wrong,” Dannehy wrote. “The majority rejected, without sound reasoning, stare decisis, took away a recognized fundamental right on which individuals relied, and tied the availability of that right exclusively to historical analysis.”
In response to a question asking her to name who on the U.S. or Connecticut Supreme Court she most admired, Dannehy named her classmate at Harvard Law School: Justice Elena Kagan.
“I admire her as a Supreme Court judge not only because of her judicial philosophy and persuasive writing style but because she has maintained a sense of humor and humility,” Dannehy wrote.
At the same hearing, Dannehy broke her long silence on why she quit the Trump-Russia investigation and resigned from the Department of Justice, calling it a matter of conscience.
She said she saw Attorney General William P. Barr as improperly pressuring the investigation for an interim public report ahead of the 2020 presidential election.