Affinity Bar Groups Eye Appointment Of Next Justice
Edward C. Lee, president of the Connecticut Asian Pacific Bar Association, said people of Asian-Pacific heritage are the fastest growing segment of the state and deserve to be represented, at some point, by an appellate-level judge.
Even though Governor Dannel P. Malloy has shown he is diversity-minded when making judicial nominations to the courts, members of affinity bar associations in the state are watching his next move very closely.
For the fourth time in his administration, Malloy will be called upon to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court when Justice Flemming Norcott Jr. reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 later this month.
A couple of factors, including Malloy's track record on judicial picks and the fact that Norcott was distinguished as the second black person to serve on the bench, suggest a minority candidate will be selected.
Since Malloy took office in 2011, history has been made with many of his court appointments. His first appointment was Lubbie Harper Jr., now retired, who was the third black justice in the state's history. Carmen Espinosa, the state's first Latin American woman was added to the court in Malloy's second appointment to the bench. Earlier this year, Malloy appointed a gay Supreme Court justice in Andrew McDonald, the state's first.
Norcott's departure would leave the high court with no African-American justices.
Malloy "has certainly achieved a level of diversity in the court," said Timothy Fisher, the dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law. "It's a diversity not just in terms of personal backgrounds. It's also a diversity in terms of career paths."
Malloy has also made strides in diversity of gender, with 10 of the 22 Superior Court nominations he's made being women.
But there is still room for improvement, advocates for judicial diversity say.
According to the most recent statistics available from the Connecticut Judicial Branch, of the state's 171-member judiciary, 81 percent are white and 65 percent male. Among minority judges, 21 are black, five are Hispanic and five are Asian.