McDonald reconfirmed as justice in rescheduled House session

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers reconfirmed State Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald on Thursday to another eight-year term, two years after he lost a politically charged battle to become the high court's chief justice.

The state House of Representatives approved McDonald's nomination by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont on a bipartisan vote of 104 to 37. Ten members were absent. Three Democrats joined 34 Republicans in opposing the former Democratic state senator's nomination.

As in 2018, when former Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated McDonald to the chief justice position, concerns were raised during the debate about whether McDonald has been an “activist” jurist — a charge he has denied.

“Send the message that we don't want justices legislating from the bench,” said Rep. Larry Butler, D-Waterbury, who raised concerns about McDonald's opposition to the death penalty. The issue came up when he was state senator and when he previously served as general counsel to the governor's office when Malloy was in office.

Other legislators lauded McDonald as a principled and dedicated jurist.

“He is an asset to our state and to the Supreme Court,” Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, the co-chairman of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, told a near empty chamber, with most representatives watching the proceedings from their legislative offices because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Legislators had originally planned to vote on the nomination of McDonald and a group of other judges on Jan. 20, the presidential inauguration day. But “out of an abundance of caution" they rescheduled the votes for Thursday because of FBI warnings about possible violent protests at state Capitol buildings, according to top Democratic and Republican House leaders.

“We have a responsibility for the safety of legislators, staff, Capitol Police and the general public – and we take that responsibility seriously. Given the current uncertainty and unpredictability, we want to act on the judicial nominations that are before us as soon as possible,” according to the statement, released by the Democratic House Speaker and Majority Leader and the Republican Minority Leader.