Take Two: Gov. Lamont makes new pick for CT Supreme Court after first choice withdraws
Four months after his original pick withdrew under intense criticism from state lawmakers, Gov. Ned Lamont nominated Nora Dannehy – a veteran federal prosecutor who recently left his administration – for a spot on the Connecticut Supreme Court Friday.
“A WOMAN OF INCREDIBLE INTEGRITY”
Unlike last time, top state leaders are putting on a full-court press for Dannehy. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Attorney General William Tong both joined Lamont at a news conference to announce her nomination.
“A woman of incredible integrity, who pursues justice wherever the evidence may lead,” Lamont said. “She cares deeply about justice. She's going to be an extraordinary justice on the Supreme Court.”
Dannehy is a safe pick. She is well-known in Connecticut legal and political circles. Her father served on the state Supreme Court. Most recently, Dannehy spent two years as Lamont’s chief counsel, helping craft his executive orders during the COVID-19 emergency.
As a federal prosecutor, Dannehy helped send former Gov. John Rowland to prison for corruption. But she made national headlines in 2020, abruptly quitting then-U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. Dannehy has never spoken publicly about her departure, but the New York Times reported she was frustrated with “prosecutorial ethics” and potential political interference.
Dannehy took no questions during Friday’s announcement, only offering a brief statement.
“If confirmed, it would be an honor to once again serve the people of Connecticut as an associate justice of their court,” she said.
Dannehy will face questions from state lawmakers, who forced Lamont's last nominee to withdraw.
Sandra Glover, also a veteran federal prosecutor, faced blistering criticism from Democrats over a controversial letter she signed in 2017, endorsing future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Republicans piled on too, accusing Glover of being inexperienced in state law.
This time, Lamont said he learned his lesson.
“It's really important for an administration to get out front – over-communicate and talk to all the legislators to make sure nobody jumps to conclusions,” he said. “That was a learning lesson.”
TOO MANY PROSECUTORS?
Social justice groups plan to protest the pick.
“We were a little bit disappointed with this nomination,” said Steve Kennedy, with the UConn Law People's Parity Project.
Lamont’s last three state Supreme Court nominees have all been ex-prosecutors. Instead, Kennedy’s group is pushing seven candidates with civil rights and criminal defense experience.
“Former prosecutors and former corporate attorneys side more often with employers in employment disputes – say, discrimination and things like that,” he said.
But Dannehy's supporters insist that no one is more qualified.
“Nora Dannehy is not just a prosecutor,” said Tong. “She is a singular nominee.”
Despite those reservations, Dannehy’s confirmation is virtually guaranteed. Top leaders from both parties endorsed her on Friday.
“We worked closely with Nora Dannehy when she was General Counsel for Gov. Lamont and were impressed with her intellect, her temperament, and her understanding of both the law and public policy,” all four Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. “We look forward to her confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee and vote in both chambers of the General Assembly later this month.”
Republicans also voiced support.
“Like many others, I understand why Governor Lamont holds Nora Dannehy in such high esteem,” said state Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford), the House Minority Leader. “While I certainly appreciate Attorney Dannehy’s remarkable professional experience, it’s her temperament, deliberative nature, and confidence to make difficult decisions that has impressed me most. Nora Dannehy has been an excellent servant to our country and state, and I support her nomination as a Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.”
If confirmed, Dannehy will replace Maria Araújo Kahn, who became a federal judge.