With substantial concerns about his experience as a judge and his close personal and professional relationship with Governor Malloy, State Representative Arthur O’Neill (R-69) today voted in opposition to the nomination of Associate Justice Andrew J. McDonald to be Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Associate Justice McDonald was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 2013, after serving as chief legal counsel to Governor Malloy, State Senator and as a partner at the law firm of Pullman & Comley. Prior to being elected to the Supreme Court, McDonald had not served on the bench.
“The concerns about Associate Justice McDonald raised during a lengthy Judiciary Committee hearing, and more recently during more in-depth considerations to his limited history as a Justice, are the reasons many of my colleagues and I could not support his nomination to lead Connecticut’s judicial system,” Rep. O’Neill, a longtime member of the Judiciary Committee, said. ” Associate Justice McDonald is qualified to sit on the bench but elevating him to the role of Chief Justice is a disservice to the people of the state and disregards the bipartisan vote of the Judiciary Committee which failed to confirm his nomination after a thorough, open public process.”
After more than 12 hours of discussion and questioning during a public hearing, the Judiciary Committee returned an “unfavorable” report regarding Justice McDonald’s nomination. That report meant the legislature would first have to overturn the decision before considering full debate on McDonald’s nomination. In a rare procedural move, the House of Representatives this afternoon voted 79-69 to disregard the unfavorable report and allow the debate to continue.
During full debate on the House floor, Rep. O’Neill once again relayed his concerns with McDonald’s close personal and professional relationship to Governor Malloy and McDonald’s own testimony in previous hearings regarding the actions of a judge.
“In the past, I voted to support Justice McDonald’s nomination to the Supreme Court, but I cannot support his ascension to the Chief Justice position based on his limited experience as a judge and concerns regarding his ability to recuse himself from cases where there may be either a real or perceived bias, including cases where legislation he authored or strongly advocated for came before the court,” Rep. O’Neill said. “In testimony from previous public hearings he stated very strongly his opinions on judicial recusal then practiced the exact opposite while seated on the bench. He failed to live up to his own commitment to recuse himself in cases involving Governor Malloy where recusal is justified to avoid a reasonable inference of bias. Simply put, we cannot trust Associate Justice McDonald to make the right decision when it comes to recusal in cases involving policies formulated during Governor Malloy’s administration.”
After several hours of debate and discussion in the House, Justice McDonald’s nomination was approved by a vote of 75 to 74.
To watch a video of Rep. O’Neill’s entire floor speech, please click the link below.
To watch a video of Rep. O’Neill’s remarks after the vote, please click the following link.