(Updated 4:02 p.m.) In one day both co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee were hired by Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s administration to positions where they will be able to implement legislation they helped craft and usher through the process.
It was announced Thursday afternoon that Sen. Andrew McDonald will leave the legislature to become Malloy’s chief legal counsel and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven was hired by Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes as undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning.
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon Lawlor, a former prosecutor who has spent the past 15 years teaching criminal justice at the University of New Haven, said he’s excited about the opportunity.
“It’s one thing to pass legislation, but it’s another to implement it,” Lawlor said. “My job will be to make sure the criminal justice system works.”
Lawlor said he’ll also have a lead role in making sure the criminal justice reforms passed in the wake of the Cheshire home invasion are properly implemented.
He said his goals in his new position are to reduce crime, reduce spending, and restore trust in the system. When he talks about trust in the system he said he’s talking about it from the point of view of crime victims and minorities.
“The goal is to make it work. To prevent crimes and save money and if you can do that you know I think everyone would say that’s a success,” Lawlor said.
As for the vacancy he leaves after chairing the Judiciary Committee for 16 of the past 24 years, he said he’s confident the committee will continue its tradition of bipartisanship.
Lawlor and McDonald were both widely respected by their peers for being able to handle some very controversial issues raised by the Judiciary Committee over the years.
Rep. Arthur O’Neill, the ranking Republican member on the committee, said both McDonald and Lawlor set a “fairly bipartisan tone,” which kept with the longstanding tradition of the committee.
“It’s traditionally a less partisan committee that at times deals with very contentious issues,” but it is able to settle them without partisan bickering, O’Neill said.
The one exception to what was an otherwise excellent tenure for the two chairmen was the “dust up” with the Catholic Church, O’Neill said referring to the 2009 fight with the church over how its finance boards operate.
Even though he will be stepping down as ranking member of the committee this year, O’Neill said he hopes legislative leaders appoint new co-chairs with legal backgrounds preferably lawyers, who understand the longstanding traditions of that committee.
Lawlor said it’s not clear at the moment who the candidates for his legislative seat in East Haven’s 99th district will be, but he said “it’s a very Democratic town,” and with a Democratic mayor and newly elected Democratic governor he’s confident it will remain in Democratic hands.
Lawlor said he will be asking the University of New Haven where he is currently tenured for a leave of absence.
In addition to Lawlor, Barnes announced he will be hiring Mark Ojakian, former deputy state comptroller as his deputy secretary, Gian-Carl Casa, who worked for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities as his undersecretary for legislative affairs, and Anne Foley who served as a senior policy advisor for 23 years in OPM will be his undersecretary of Policy and Planning.