Judge Kari A. Dooley (screengrab)

The Nor’easter that crippled Connecticut this week left Waterbury Superior Court Judge Kari A. Dooley without her family at her side during a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

“My intention was to introduce my husband, Jim and children, Jackson and Stephen, and my sister … but with the Nor’easter bearing down on the state it was necessary to change plans,” she told the panel.

Dooley faced only mild questioning from the panel and received strong endorsements from Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy for her nomination to serve on the U.S. District Court of Connecticut.

She said that it is “humbling” to be nominated and assured the committee that “if deemed fit by this committee and confirmed by the senate I will continue my career in public service with both dedication and enthusiasm.”

President Donald Trump in December nominated the former federal prosecutor from Newtown to fill the vacancy on the state’s federal bench after U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny elected to become a senior judge, allowing him to carry a lighter caseload.

Murphy and Blumenthal had recommended her for the position — providing what is known as a “Blue Slip” to the committee expressing their opinion of the nominee. Traditionally, the views of home state senators on judicial nominations weigh heavily in whether a nominee is confirmed.

“When the White House engages with Democratic Senators we can come to an agreement on nominees that represent the best of what we both look for,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal praised her to the committee saying Dooley “comes here with a reputation for integrity, fairness and intellect.”

Murphy said that beyond her extensive experience as a judge and prosecutor she has earned admiration from everyone she works with.

“I have found after her name was sent up to the White House that courthouse staff have been most enthusiastic. These are the folks that come in and out of the courtroom every day and notice all those qualities you might not see from the bench,” he said.

Dooley was born in New York City but was raised in Connecticut. She is a 1981 graduate of Ridgefield High School. She earned her law degree the University of Connecticut law school in 1988. Dooley was an assistant U.S. Attorney for 12 years before moving to the state bench. She has served on the Connecticut Superior Court since 2004.

As a prosecutor, Dooley has been involved in a number of high-profile cases. In the 1990s, she helped prosecute Stew Leonard Sr., who began serving a 52-month federal prison sentence in 1993 for income tax evasion.

As the U.S. Attorney’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity coordinator, Dooley was also involved in the questioning of two child victims in a case involving former Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano, who was convicted of using his influence as mayor to sexually assault two preteen girls. And, she brought 24 federal charges against Martin Frankel in 2002 stemming from a scam that caused at least $200 million in losses.

Larson Urges Leadership at Social Security Administration

Representative John Larson this week urged President Donald Trump to come forward with a nominee to head the Social Security Administration so that they can move forward with efforts to improve the program.

“The President needs to act, so that we can turn to our real work: making sure Social Security can do its job serving the American public, and how best to strengthen Social Security benefits,” he said on Wednesday at a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on challenges facing the SSA after five years of “acting commissioners.”

A day earlier the Government Accountability Office told Congress that Nancy Berryhill is now serving in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. She was named acting SSA chief by then President Barack Obama on Dec. 23, 2016 and, under the law, Trump had 210 days beyond his inauguration to nominate a commissioner.

Since the agency was made independent in 1995, the commissioner has been appointed for a six-year term. Currently, the SSA lacks a commissioner, deputy commissioner and inspector general, the GAO noted. President Obama’s nominee to lead SSA, Carolyn Colvin, never received a full Senate vote, but served in an acting capacity from 2013 until the end of 2016. Berryhill, previously the deputy commissioner for operations at the $12 billion agency of 64,000 employees, has worked there for 40 years, according to Government Executive.

Larson has proposed legislation to expand Social Security and has also called for additional funding to make sure beneficiaries get their checks on time.

“The number of Americans receiving Social Security has climbed by 8 million (15 percent) — and the aging of the baby boomer into retirement is going to continue for years to come,” he said. “Instead of providing Social Security with adequate resources, the agency’s core operating budget has been cut by 11 percent from 2010 to 2017, after adjusting for inflation.”

Sandy Hook Mom Tells Congress ‘Do Something Meaningful and Serious’

Newtown Mom Francine Wheeler delivered a poignant reminder to Congress on Wednesday of the human cost of their collective inaction when it comes to mass shootings like the one five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary that claimed the life of her 6-year-old son, Ben.

“On December 14th 2012 I got him a hot chocolate at Starbucks and dropped him off at school. I never saw him alive again,” she said at a hearing called by Senate Democrats in the U.S. Capitol. “After what was left of my family stood in the classroom at Newtown High School and President Obama hugged me and wouldn’t let go until I could catch my breath and stop crying. ‘It’s different this time because people are taking it personally,’ he said. But it wasn’t different.”

In the five years that have passed, Wheeler said the hole in her heart remains an open wound that will never heal.

“I miss Ben everyday but some days are more awful. Every time there has been a mass shooting since Ben and his classmates and teachers were killed our world is rocked again,” she said.

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Courtney Urges Navy to Rev Up Sub Building

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney urged the Navy on Tuesday to find ways beyond what is already in its budgeted plans to speed construction of the U.S. submarine fleet so that it can achieve the 66-boat level called for in its recently released long-term Force Structure Assessment.
“While the budget reflects a sustained two-a-year construction rate for Virginia class submarines, at this rate the force would not achieve the 66-boat level that was called for in the force structure assessment until 2048 — 30 years from now,” Courtney said. “So we’ve got to do better and move faster.”

Courtney, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, made the remark during the panel’s hearing Tuesday on the Navy’s Fiscal 2019 budget request. He has long advocated for a three-a-year submarine build, which would directly benefit Electric Boat in his district.

Courtney noted that Congress “demonstrated its strong support for expanding the attack submarine production line” by authorizing the Navy to go beyond building two submarines a year within the next five-year block of contracting.

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Keeping Score