Courtesy of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Peter T. Zarella announced Thursday that he was stepping down from the bench to join the law firm of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter in January.

Zarella, 67, will join the firm’s appellate and alternative dispute resolution practice groups.

The retirement came as a surprise to the executive branch.

“We thank Justice Zarella for his service to the state and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said Friday.  “A nomination for his replacement will be made at the appropriate time when the selection process has concluded.”

Zarella will be the second former Supreme Court justice to join McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter. The first was retired Justice C. Ian McLachlan.

“For almost two decades, Justice Zarella has been a major voice on the Connecticut Supreme Court,” Edward B. Deutsch, a managing partner with the firm, said. “We are honored to have such a highly respected and experienced member of the judiciary join our firm.”

Zarella was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2001 by former Gov. John G. Rowland. He joined the Connecticut Superior Court in 1996 and became an Appellate Court judge in 2000.

As a Supreme Court Justice, Zarella has ruled on some of the most pressing issues of the day, including same-sex marriage in 2008 and the death penalty in 2015. Zarella was one of three dissenting opinions on the same-sex marriage ruling. He also dissented on a ruling that found the death penalty unconstitutional.

At one point Zarella was thought to be on track to become the next Chief Supreme Court Justice, but former Justice William Sullivan’s attempt to get his friend the job backfired when lawmakers learned Sullivan withheld a controversial ruling in order to give Zarella the inside track. Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell nominated Zarella for chief justice, but once Sullivan’s actions were revealed, he withdrew his nomination.

Before his appointment to the bench in 1996, Zarella was a partner in the Hartford firm of Brown, Paindiris & Zarella.