The General Assembly approved the nomination of Justice Lubbie Harper to the Supreme Court Wednesday with little opposition.
The third African-American to be appointed to the state’s highest court received some opposition from four Democrats and 19 Republican lawmakers. The House voted 124 to 16 and the Senate voted 24 to 7 in favor of Harper’s nomination.
Most of the opposition centered around his involvement in the 4-3 decision which made same-sex marriages legal in Connecticut.
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, urged lawmakers to vote against the nomination because Harper was the deciding vote in the same-sex marriage decision.
Wolfgang said Harper, as an Appellate Court judge, was asked to sit in on the case after Chief Justice Chase Rogers and Senior Justice William Sullivan recused themselves from the case.
He said the nomination was a “political reward” for his decision in that case.
Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, said Harper had overstepped his bounds in that case. It’s the power of the legislature, not the Judicial Branch to enact laws, he said.
“I can’t and won’t support activist judges who create rather than uphold the laws of the state,” he said before the Senate vote.
Harper, 68, will retire after less than two years on the bench, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said that didn’t factor into his decision to nominate him.
“Based on his life story he deserves to be on the Supreme Court. So I can honestly tell you time is not a factor,” Malloy said last month when he nominated Harper.
But it seemed to factor in to the vote of Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, who expressed concerns about Harper’s age. Stability and continuity are essential in the court system, he said.
“I have concerns about setting a precedent for such a short duration,” he said. “I don’t want to see the court become a revolving door.”
Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, and co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee said he didn’t think that issue was discussed during the committee hearing but he recalled a justice being approved at the age of 69 and 3 months. After Harper retired his caseload would be absorbed by his successor and the remaining justices, he said.