With less than 24 hours to go before the Judiciary Committee’s hearings on nine judicial nominees, it looks like a compromise that would allow their confirmations to be called for a vote is on the horizon.
Close to 90 lawmakers in the House had signed a petition on Tuesday asking House Speaker Chris Donovan not to call the nominations for a vote until the Judicial Branch and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell are able to work out their differences regarding the judicial department’s budget.
Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said both branches are talking and it looks like they “figured out what a deal could be.”
Sen. Andrew McDonald, the other co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said it’s his understanding that the Judicial branch is “over-the-moon” with the agreement. He said he would like to review the language, but in principle it sounds like they may have worked out their differences. He said it gives the branch, which was devastated by Rell’s veto of $7.8 million, a number of rescissions, and the early retirement program, more autonomy.
McDonald and Lawlor said they would share the proposal with members of the Judiciary Committee Friday. There’s likely to be some lawmakers in the Black and Puerto Rican caucus, who are still upset with the nominations because none of the nominees are minorities. The diversity complaint is a reoccurring theme with the Rell administration and not one resolved with the budget issues, one lawmaker said Thursday.
The Judicial Branch didn’t want to jeopardize its negotiations by commenting on the proposal.
Earlier in the day Thursday Rell made it clear that she wasn’t going to withdraw her nine nominees.
“Don’t try to make the appointment of judges contingent on finances or anything like that,” Rell said following a speech at the Connecticut Convention Center. “This should not be about politics.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Tuesday that he thinks politics are involved. He said he doesn’t doubt that for the Judicial Branch that it’s a budgetary issue. However, Cafero believes that the legislature’s majority wants to wait until after the election of a Democratic governor to make the nominations.
Rell didn’t say whether she thought that was the motivation, but she did say “It’s not always just about money.”
“There’s some other issues we’ve been talking about and we’ll continue to talk,” Rell said.
“I think the judicial branch feels that they need to have some autonomy and I can certainly understand that.”
She said there are 20 vacancies and she filled half of them by nominating 10 lawyers to the positions.
Brian Leslie, a prosecutor from Wallingford, withdrew his nomination following a column in the Hartford Courant regarding his handling of a case. The number of nominees drops to nine with Leslie withdrawing his name from consideration.