Chief Justice nominee Andrew McDonald approved in House by one vote

Andrew McDonald

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–  By the narrowest margin possible, just one vote, the House has approved the nomination of Governor Malloy‘s close friend and former top aide to be the state’s top judge.  After four hours of debate, the House voting 75-74 to approve Justice Andrew McDonald to be the next Chief Justice but the nomination faces an uncertain future in the State Senate, where sources say the vote should come by the end of the month.

In opening the debate today, Judiciary Committee co-chair Rep. William Tong (D-Stamford) saying,  “Justice McDonald is not just eminently qualified, he’s ready.” The majority of the Democrats in the House held the position that the Governor’s longtime friend and aide is one of the most qualified people ever nominated to be the state’s top judge.

Related: Capitol Report: Partisan battle over Supreme Court Chief Justice pick

The ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-Naugatuck) saying, “First, I’d like to make it clear that the sexual orientation of this or any nominee that comes before us is not a factor.”  Rebimbas made it a point to rebut the contention that many Republicans are opposing McDonald’s nomination because he would become the nation’s first openly gay State Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Republicans biggest argument was that McDonald was the deciding vote that overturned the state’s death penalty. A statute he had worked on as a State Senator and presumably consulted the Governor on when he was his legal counsel. Republicans argued that McDonald should have recused himself from the case.  Rep. Rebimbas saying, “The court’s duties and responsibilities is to take the facts and base it on their decision on only the facts, not create law. They essentially created public policy.”

Rebimbas made the argument as Dr. William Petit, now a Republican state Rep. from Plainville, listened. The decision overturning the death penalty meant the men that killed his wife and children had their death penalties converted to life in prison.  During the debate, Rep. Petit said,  “Given what I feel is this bias, I am concerned about confirming a justice who has appeared to want to push a personal agenda
and not directly interpret our laws.”

If McDonald is to be given final approval, at least one Republican will have to vote for him because one of the Democrats in the Senate has recused herself because of a conflict. That leaves the Senate at 18 Republicans and 17 Democrats. If one Republican were to join all 17 Democrats, McDonald’s nomination would be approved 18 to 17. A tie breaker vote would not be needed.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that a tiebreaker vote would be needed if one Republican joined the 17 Democrats in approving McDonald. That is not the case.

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