There’s certain to be a leadership shakeup on the legislature’s Judiciary Committee next year. Rep. Gerald Fox III, the panel’s co-chairman, announced Thursday he will not seek another term in the legislature and will instead pursue a nomination for probate judge.
The announcement from Fox, a Stamford Democrat, comes days after the panel’s Senate chairman, Sen. Eric Coleman, lost the Democratic nomination for his seat. Coleman has said he plans to primary the candidate who won the nomination, Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden.
But Fox said Thursday he has made the decision to leave the legislature when his current term ends in an effort to replace his father Gerald Fox, who is currently serving as Stamford’s probate judge and plans to retire.
Fox said he was proud of his work on the Judiciary Committee.
“I think we accomplished a tremendous amount as chairs for four years including a lot of controversial issues,” Fox said. “Even though some of it was controversial I think we were able to work well with both sides of the aisle… There’s so many issues that come before the committee. In my opinion, it’s the best committee in the legislature.”
Fox, a measured and reserved lawmaker, co-managed the committee as it drafted some controversial bills. Since he and Coleman took over the panel, the General Assembly passed legislation prospectively abolishing the death penalty and decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
He took over as House chair of the panel after Rep. Michael Lawlor, the committee’s chairman for the previous 16 years, took a job with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration as criminal justice policy advisor.
Lawlor praised Fox Thursday for maintaining a bipartisan committee by including ranking Republicans in the panel’s bill screening process. Lawlor said it is also important for leaders of the Judiciary Committee to keep a straightforward and business-like tone while explaining sometimes complicated legal bills to colleagues who are not lawyers.
“Gerry certainly took that seriously and I think that it’s to his credit that he ends up leaving the committee pretty much liked by everybody, which I think is more than you can say for me,” he said.
Lawlor also commended Coleman, who became the Judiciary co-chairman at the same time as Fox. Coleman also inherited the post from a Malloy appointee, Sen. Andrew McDonald. McDonald accepted a job as the governor’s legal counsel and has since been made a Supreme Court justice.
Fox urged residents of Coleman’s district to support him in the upcoming primary election.
“I would certainly encourage anyone who could vote for Eric to vote. He is a valuable member of the legislature and I think he has served his constituents well,” he said.
Coleman did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday but told the Hartford Courant that he has overcome a convention defeat in the past. In 2004, a town councilman from Windsor beat out the longtime senator for the Democratic nomination. However, Coleman defeated that candidate, Tim Curtis, in a primary election and went on to reclaim the seat he has now held for 19 years.
Fox’s post is likely to fall to Rep. Matt Ritter, a Hartford Democrat who is currently serving as the House vice chairman of the committee.