Christine Stuart photo
Sybil Richards, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and Judge Michael Sheldon (Christine Stuart photo)

Recognizing Judicial Branch budget balancing measures Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated his first Superior Court Judge Thursday and promoted one to a vacancy on the Appellate Court bench.

Malloy nominated Judge Michael R. Sheldon of Canton to the Appellate Court and Sybil Richards of Orange to succeed Sheldon in Superior Court.

There were 17 vacancies which went unfunded in the Judicial Branch budget this year, but the vacancy on the Appellate Court bench gave Malloy an opening to make his third and fourth judicial nominations of his tenure. There are currently 22 vacancies in Superior Court and five of those positions are funded in the budget, a Judicial Branch spokeswoman said.

Malloy said he will be talking with Chief Justice Chase Rogers later today about her budget and whether she needs other vacancies to be filled.

Earlier this year Malloy appointed Joette Katz as his Department of Children and Families Commissioner creating a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Justice Lubbie Harper filled Katz’s vacancy and Judge Carmen Espinosa, the first Hispanic judge appointed to the Superior Court bench in 1992 by then-Gov. Lowell Weicker, was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Harrper on the Appellate Court bench.

Appellate Court Judge Thomas A. Bishop decided in September to become a senior judge creating the vacancy for which Sheldon was nomination.

Sheldon, 62, has been a judge since 1991, when he was appointed by Weicker. Richards, 48, is the deputy corporation counsel in Stamford where she worked with Malloy when he was mayor.

“Both Judge Sheldon and Sybil Richards have the experience, temperament and skills to be thoughtful, reasoned and fair jurists,” Malloy said.

“Judge Sheldon has distinguished himself in both the academic world and on the bench.  His reputation in the legal community and among his judicial colleagues is stellar. He tackles both large and small cases with the same level of dedication, insight and attention, and those attributes will serve the citizens of the state well when he is on the Appellate Court.”

Richards, who is African American, is the third minority Malloy has nominated acknowledging longstanding complaints about the lack of diversity on the bench.

“I witnessed first-hand how talented, sharp and steady she is,“ Malloy said. “When I was mayor of Stamford, I relied on her legal advice to help navigate through difficult issues.  She demonstrated to me time and time again that she has the attributes to be a great judge.”
Richards said she applied to the Judicial Selection Commission to be considered for appointment in June 2010.

Lawmakers have encouraged minority members of the Connecticut Bar to apply and go through the Judicial Selection process.

Andrew McDonald, Malloy’s chief legal counsel and former co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said the names of those who have previously gone through the Judicial Selection Commission process does not change with administrations. He said once your name is on the list, it remains there.

The Judicial Selection Commission screens potential judges and produces a list of nominees who can be chosen.