There's the head of the state's Innocence Project. A former president of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. A recent congressional candidate. A top family law practitioner. And more.
While nearly all lists of Superior Court nominees contain some notable legal names, the Class of '13 "sparkles" with top Connecticut lawyers, said Dan Krisch, an appellate advocate at Halloran & Sage. Krisch called one of the nominees, Hope Seeley, the former CCDLA president who is considered one of the state's top defense lawyers, one of his personal role models.
"What has made these candidates great lawyers will also make them great judges," Krisch said.
There are 30 Superior Court openings, and last week Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced his picks to fill half of them. Given the state's budget situation, there are no immediate plans to fill the rest. Malloy also tapped Superior Court Judge Christine Keller to fill an expected opening on the Appellate Court. Appellate Judge Carmen Espinosa has been nominated as a Supreme Court justice.
Like Espinosa and Keller, all the Superior Court nominees must be confirmed by the General Assembly. Many of the private sectors on the list would take a significant pay cut; Superior Court judges currently make $146,780 a year. A special committee has recommended boosting that amount significantly, but some legislators have questioned the wisdom of doing that with the state still in the midst of a budget crisis.
The Superior Court Class of 2013 includes several name partners in established firms who would be leaving for the bench at a high point in their careers.
Greenwich divorce lawyer Thomas D. Colin of Ridgefield is a partner with Schoonmaker, George, Colin & Blomberg, and has been a prominent litigator, author and matrimonial bar member. One former colleague speculated that he may be taking a pay cut of several hundred thousand a year to don the black robes.
Thomas G. Moukawsher, of the Hartford and Groton firm of Moukawsher & Walsh, is considered to be a leading national authority on employee benefits law. He co-chairs the Employee Benefits Committee of the American Bar Association.
But the name partner with the highest public name recognition is probably Andrew Roraback, of Torrington's Roraback & Roraback, a firm founded back in the 1880s. A longtime state senator from Goshen, and a member of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, Roraback was the Republican candidate this past November for the Fifth District congressional seat won by Elizabeth Esty.
Only three of the candidates are from the public sector. The best-known among them is Karen Goodrow, who heads the Connecticut Innocence Project, which has freed several men most notably James Tillman who were erroneously convicted of rape, murder and other crimes.