The legislature’s Judiciary Committee tabled the nomination of one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s judicial nominees Monday after her testimony suggested she may not have been properly licensed while serving as general counsel to a Connecticut foundation.
The legal panel tabled the nomination of Alina Marquez-Reynolds, a former federal prosecutor, to serve as a Superior Court judge. Lamont later withdrew the nomination. During a hearing in the Legislative Office Building, Reynolds described a long legal career including her current work as the general counsel at the Grace Farms Foundation.
However, Reynolds’ status with Connecticut Bar Association raised some eyebrows on the committee when she said she had only been admitted as a full member of the Connecticut Bar last Thursday after working with more limited admission, called authorized house counsel admission, since 2021.
“It came to my attention that [an authorized house counsel admission] isn’t sufficient as far as becoming a Superior Court judge and as soon as that came to my attention then I completed the paperwork to waive in as a full member of the Connecticut Bar,” Reynolds said.
During a radio appearance Tuesday morning, the governor told WTIC 1080’s Brian Shactman he had withdrawn the nomination. Lamont said he was unaware that she had not been fully admitted to the bar when he nominated her.
“It was a mistake and she had to move on,” Lamont said. He said he planned to make another nomination to fill the post at a later date. “In the next round of judges there’ll be somebody else.”
Republicans on the committee questioned how Reynolds was able to be sworn in so quickly. She told the committee she had not begun to pursue a position as a judge until December and several lawmakers suggested she had help expediting her admittance to the bar association.
However, Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, said an apparent gap between the date she began working as general counsel in 2019 and the date she obtained an authorized house counsel admission in 2021 may have violated a state law requiring a lawyer to obtain the admission within three months of starting a general counsel job.
“There’s a failure somewhere,” Fishbein said. “It’s either the nomination process or the judicial selection process.”
Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who is co-chair of the committee, said because Reynolds served in several roles while working at the foundation, it was important for the committee to determine when she began working as counsel.
“Really, she had three months from whenever she started acting as general counsel to obtain her authorized house counsel license,” Stafstrom said. “Her full admission to the bar is completely separate. Frankly, she could continue to operate as general counsel to Grace Farms without ever receiving full admission to the Connecticut bar.”
The Judiciary Committee initially appeared poised to move Reynolds’ nomination to the next phase of the legislative process, but tabled the resolution as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began to voice reservations.
“I have never heard of a Connecticut judge going through the judicial selection system and going through this body who had received their Connecticut Bar admission three days ago,” Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said. “It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t smell good, somebody’s getting special preference and we should not be moving this nomination forward.”