Former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Sullivan took the stand again Wednesday after a medical condition interrupted the continuation of his testimony to the Judicial Review Council in September. The hearing was on allegations Sullivan violated judicial cannons when he purposefully withheld the release of a court decision in an attempt to steer the probable backlash from the “controversial case” away from Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s chief justice nominee, Justice Peter T. Zarella.
Sullivan testified Wednesday that he still believes he had the right to delay the release of the decision, which ruled that certain court records did not fall under the state’s Freedom of Information laws. He said he did it because he didn’t want Zarella to have to defend the decision. Sullivan said because he authored the decision he had the authority to withhold it. Following Sullivan’s testimony Wednesday, legislators said given the timeline Sullivan revealed in his testimony it has become unclear why Rell was unable to give the chairmen of the Judiciary Committee advance notice of Sullivan’s retirement and Zarella’s nomination. Sullivan testified that he told Rell in December 2005 that he planned on retiring. Sullivan also testified that the governor told him at that same December meeting that her choice for his successor was Justice Zarella.State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, Jr., D-Brooklyn, said Rell should explain why she attempted to fast-track Zarella’s nomination. Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said in a press release Wednesday, “When we asked why the governor didn’t give the Judiciary Committee advance notice about the impending Zarella nomination, she told us she couldn’t have because she didn’t know about the Sullivan retirement until she got Sullivan’s letter in March. Since then, on at least a couple of occasions, she acknowledged she knew back in December that Sullivan was contemplating retirement and that she was predisposed to nominating Justice Zarella. The question remains: Why did she feel the need to blindside us with the nomination and then try to rush it through the process?” Click here to see what legislators have said in the past about Sullivan’s decision to withhold the release of the ruling to the public.