McDonald approved for state Supreme Court
The Stamford native, a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Connecticut School of Law, will take the oath of office on this morning and immediately join the court.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, for whom McDonald has been chief legal counsel for two years, will administer the oath in the Capitol. A ceremonial swearing in will be held in the Supreme Court chamber within the next few weeks for family and friends.
The state Senate on Wednesday endorsed McDonald 30-3 and the House voted final confirmation, 125-20. In all, about 90 minutes of debate occurred on the nomination of McDonald, who becomes the first openly gay member of the Supreme Court.
Opposition came from Republicans who either claimed he didn't have enough judicial experience; or recalled a 2009 battle over a failed bill that would have required further financial oversight of Roman Catholic parishes that was opposed by church leaders.
Several legislators charged that McDonald, who as a state senator led the Judiciary Committee, had an anti-Catholic agenda.
But supportive lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said that McDonald's legal experience, eight years in the Legislature and his ability to see all sides of an issue would make him a valuable associate justice of the Supreme Court. The 46-year-old Stamford resident will be paid $162,520.
House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said he believes McDonald will be fair and able to put aside his personal beliefs.
He said that it was only natural for McDonald to have stirred up criticism as a lawmaker.
"That is the role of a legislator and an elected public official," Cafero said. "And if we were to hold that fact against the varying nominees before us...I'm not so sure that would be a good system. Wouldn't we all be picking people that agreed with us and denying people, or voting against people who didn't?"
Rep. Gerald M. Fox III, D-Stamford, current co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, recalled that during McDonald's recent confirmation hearing, he stressed that the power of the General Assembly to make state law is sacrosanct.
"That's how he's going to apply his intellect, his reasoning abilities when addressing a case that comes before him," Fox said of McDonald, a former partner with Pullman & Comley LLC, who during his last six years before joining Malloy's Capitol team in 2010, headed the firm's appellate-litigation unit.
"We all know that the Supreme Court has to make tough choices," Fox said. "They're not easy."
McDonald is a former member of the Stamford Board of Representatives and was chairman of the Stamford Board of Finance. During Malloy's tenure as mayor of Stamford, McDonald served as chief legal counsel.
Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, had lingering questions about the 2009 proposal that turned the Judiciary Committee into a lightning rod, prompting busloads of church-sponsored protesters.
McLachlan, a member of the Judiciary Committee, last week wrote McDonald a letter asking for further clarification of the issue ,but had not received a response by Wednesday's vote.
"It seems to me that this is unfortunate," said McLachlan, who voted against McDonald's nomination in committee last week.
"Should we not take pause for just a day or two to consider further?" McLachlan asked, indicating that McDonald's silence was a sign of "disrespect" of the legislative process.
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney said the 2009 bill was the result of two major cases of financial fraud in Southwestern Connecticut churches.
Rep. Rosa C. Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said she was satisfied with McDonald's responses to questions on the 2009 bill.
Rep. Livvy R. Floren, R-Greenwich, whose district includes part of Stamford, said that during McDonald's eight years in the Senate, he was "the great convener" of the eight-member Stamford delegation as they planned legislation after hours in Pullman & Comley's Stamford office.
"He knows how to work an issue," said Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, adding that he believes that McDonald will be fair and work hard.
Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, agreed. "He's thoughtful, he's reasonable, he works through the issues."
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