This story is part of CT Mirror Explains, an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting into a "what you need to know" format and provide practical information to our readers.
Original reporting by Mark Pazniokas. Compiled by Gabby DeBenedictis.
On Sept. 26, lawmakers confirmed the nomination of 62-year-old Nora R. Dannehy, a career prosecutor who quit the Russia-Trump investigation in what eventually became a national story, to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Dannehy filled a vacancy left by Maria Araujo Kahn, who resigned to become a federal appeals judge earlier this year.
Here’s what to know about Dannehy.
What is Nora Dannehy’s background?
Dannehy, a former Connecticut deputy attorney general under George Jepsen, is a longtime federal prosecutor who focused on public corruption and complex white-collar crimes. In 2004 she led the federal corruption investigation of Gov. John G. Rowland.
In 2019, Gov. Ned Lamont hired Dannehy as his general counsel. She held the post for the final two years of his first term, and 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.
Dannehy was born in Willimantic and attended Windham High School, Wellesley College and 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.
What was her involvement in the Trump-Russia probe?
Dannehy was the deputy to John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney tasked with investigating whether intelligence agencies or the FBI were guilty of wrongdoing in examining whether Russia colluded with the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump in 2016.
Her resignation without public comment in September 2020 raised questions nationally about dissent inside the investigation. During her confirmation hearing, she broke her long silence — saying her decision to quit the investigation and resign from the Department of Justice was a matter of conscience.
Dannehy said she saw Attorney General William P. Barr as improperly pressuring the investigation for an interim public report ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Dannehy told the Judiciary Committee of the General Assembly that not only did Barr’s request violate Department of Justice policies against commenting on ongoing investigations or influencing elections, but she “strongly disagreed” with conclusions in a draft interim report.
She gave no details about what elements of the interim draft report she found so objectionable but was clear that she saw Barr as pressing her and Durham to act in the service of Trump’s reelection.
Was her nomination supported by the Connecticut legislature?
Dannehy was endorsed by the Judiciary Committee on a 30-4 vote after a cordial hearing. Passage of her confirmation 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.
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.
What have opponents to her nomination said?
Some community advocates have opposed Dannehy’s appointment, testifying that the state Supreme Court is overly weighted with former prosecutors and corporate lawyers. One faulted the governor for not adding a woman of color to a court that had three white men, two Black men and one white woman.