HARTFORD, CT — One judicial nominee withdrew his nomination and another retired freeing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to nominate two more Friday.
With 10 days left in the legislative session, Malloy nominated Norma Sanchez-Figueroa of South Windsor and Jennifer Macierowski of Windsor to the Superior Court bench.
Macierowski is the chief legal counsel for the Senate Republican Caucus where she’s worked since 1999 and Sanchez-Figueroa is a Family Support Magistrate nominated to replace retiring Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina, who was a member of the Hispanic bar.
Francis Lee O’Reilly of Fairfield withdrew his nomination Friday.
Malloy insisted that he wouldn’t be making the two nominations if O’Reilly hadn’t withdrawn his name and if Robaina wasn’t retiring.
Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers voted against 29 new judicial nominees because the branch expressed concern about having enough money to fund all the positions.
“I understand there has to be further conversation before these folks are or are not confirmed,” Malloy said.
Malloy said there’s no deal to get the now 31 Superior Court judges confirmed.
“But I’m hopeful we can get that resolved,” Malloy said.
He said there’s no agreement in place that these folks will be approved, but “I suspect they will be approved because that’s our history in this states.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, thanks Malloy for nominating his legal counsel.
“I thank the governor for recognizing Jennifer Macierowski as an excellent nominee who upholds the integrity, respect and commitment we seek in all our judges,” Fasano said. “Jennifer is one of the most talented attorneys I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Throwing in a Republican candidate may help his chances, but it is by no means a slam dunk.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Thursday that the fate of the 30 and now 31 judicial nominees is not “any clearer today than it was a few days ago.”
There are a number of Republicans who don’t believe the state can afford it.
Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said Monday that he would be voting against all the new Superior Court judges “because I do not think the judicial branch needs the new judges.”
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, said she was voting against all the new judges because she didn’t see a lot of diversity and “second we have money problems.”
Other members of the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the nominations Monday, but warned if there was no money to pay for them, then they would vote against them when they made it to the floor.
“Clearly we do not have enough available funds, staff or even caseloads to justify putting 30 more people on the bench,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said last week. “This is not about whether these nominees are qualified, although each one must be thoroughly vetted. This is about getting our state’s budget straight and not committing to massive new funding levels that are unsustainable and don’t make sense for the Judicial Department.’’
It will cost $8.74 million to fill 30 vacancies on the Superior Court.
The cost of a Superior Court judge, including salary but excluding fringe benefits, and including essential support staff, is around $291,410 per year.
The branch, according to the Chief Court Administrator Judge Patrick Carroll III, will see about 11 vacancies before June 30, 2019 so there will be funding for 11 judges. The branch, if it receives the same amount of money the governor proposed as part of his budget adjustment, would only be able to fund six additional judges at a cost of $1.7 million. That leaves 13 judicial nominations in need of funding. The cost of the judges and support staff would require an additional $3.79 million in funding, according to Carroll.
In a letter to Klarides, Carroll said, “Court monitors, temporary assistant clerks and judicial marshals are all under minimum staffing levels because of budget constraints. Very often courts cannot go into session or are delayed because of staff changes.’’
Carroll also pointed out that caseloads across the spectrum, from civil to criminal, family, small claims and juvenile, have decreased over the last five years.
“Cases are down, staffing is below minimum required levels, the state is facing huge deficits and revenue is volatile,’’ Klarides said. “Simply put, we cannot afford 30 more judges right now.’’
Malloy explained Robaina’s retirement was not included in Carroll’s assessment.