The Connecticut court system’s loudest critic — Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford — had a change of heart Wednesday about the reconfirmation of Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers.
Gonzalez, who on April 10 in the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Rogers’ reconfirmation to a second eight-year term, said Wednesday that “we all know we have the right to change our mind.”
And she did, voting against Rogers’ reconfirmation in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday. But Gonzalez’ reversal of her vote for Rogers wasn’t about her issues with the court system. Specifically, she has been battling on behalf of individuals who have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in fees to guardian ad litems, who are appointed by the court to look out for the interests of children in divorce or parental-rights cases. Gonzalez and many of her constituents say the fees are far too high.
Rather, her change of heart Wednesday was over a perceived slight against a Latina justice.
Gonzalez said she was voting against Rogers because Rogers had joined an opinion released last week by Justice Richard Palmer, regarding a new trial for Richard Lapointe.
In the majority opinion, Palmer wrote that the language used by Justice Carmen Espinosa in her dissent was “so derisive that it is unbefitting an opinion of this state’s highest court.”
Espinosa is the first Latina appointed to the state Supreme Court.
Gonzalez said Rogers failed to distance herself from Palmer’s dissent, which went on to say in a footnote that Espinosa “dishonors this court.”
Gonzalez said the rest of the justices in the majority used Espinosa’s opinion to attack her “personally and unnecessarily.”
She said that during Rogers’ confirmation hearing, Rogers’ supporters testified that she promoted diversity.
“I would say to her, let’s start respecting diversity,” Gonzalez said in her brief remarks on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
The House voted 139-6 to confirm Rogers. The Senate voted 35-0 on her confirmation last week.
The other six lawmakers to vote against Rogers were Reps. Angel Arce, D-Hartford, Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, Robert Sanchez, D-New Britain, Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, and Dan Carter, R-Bethel.
Gonzalez’s vote against Rogers comes after she sent a nasty email to her colleagues regarding Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Gonzalez apologized for including other people in the email chain, but never apologized for the content of the email.
The email accused Rebimbas of “fighting for her pocket” and being “cold at heart,” regarding family court reforms.
Rebimbas has declined comment since the incident, which caused Republicans to filibuster about 45 pieces of legislation, some of which had bipartisan support. House Republican leader Themis Klarides has said Gonzalez’s email was “unprofessional, threatening and unethical,” and an abuse of her position as a legislator.