Twenty new Superior Court judges, including three former state legislators, and two family support magistrates all took the oath of office on Tuesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
The new class of judicial officials were approved by the state legislature after being nominated by Gov. Ned Lamont in March. Lamont, who addressed the group prior to administering the oath, urged the new judges and magistrates to consider both the law and the perspectives of the residents who will appear in their courtrooms.
“In this complicated day and age it’s more important than ever that we don’t just rule but we explain why we rule, why it’s important and why we make the decisions that we make,” the governor said.
The group of new Superior Court judges includes three former legislators: Paul Doyle, a Wethersfield Democrat who served several terms in both the House and Senate, Dan Fox, a Stamford Democrat who served in the House from 2011 until he was appointed this year, and Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican who served two terms in the Senate before working as legal counsel for the Senate Republican caucus.
The class also includes a former executive branch chief, Thomas Saadi, who served as the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs until his nomination in March.
In remarks before the new officials and a conference room crowded with their family and friends, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Robinson advised the judges and magistrates to accept help and stay grounded.
“Family and friends keep us humble and never let us forget where we came from,” Robinson said. “They also will provide refuge from the storm when — not if — you make a controversial or unpopular decision.”
Despite not being formally sworn in until Tuesday, Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto, the state’s chief court administrator, said the new class had been serving on the bench for about a month after they completed a four-week training course.
Lamont said the addition of new judges and magistrates would help Connecticut courts tackle a lingering backlog of cases brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re catching up but we can’t catch up without each and every one of you doing what you know is right,” the governor said.
While each of the officials sworn in Tuesday received approval from state lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, the governor’s nomination to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court, federal prosecutor Sandra Slack Glover, withdrew herself from consideration in May due to resistance from lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee.
Following Tuesday’s ceremony, the governor told reporters that he would likely wait until the legislature comes back into session next year before nominating another candidate for the Supreme Court.
“I think we’re going to take our time,” Lamont said. “I’m told that in the meantime a Superior Court judge can step up and make sure that we don’t miss a beat in the Supreme Court. I think a lot of the folks we’ve talked to want to make sure that the legislature’s in session.”
The full list of new Superior Court judges includes:
- Mark Altermatt of Bolton: Altermatt graduated from Washington and Lee University and Syracuse University College School of Law. He served as a partner at David G. Hill and Associates. Prior to this, he was partner at Halloran Sage, LLP, where he spent most of his legal career litigating civil matters, including the conduct of trials, mediations, and arbitrations. He has been practicing law for 34 years.
- Moira Buckley of Glastonbury: Buckley graduated from St. Anselm College and Quinnipiac University School of Law. She was Assistant Federal Defender in the Office of the Federal Defender for the District of Connecticut. For more than 25 years, she has practiced criminal defense work in state and federal courts at the trial and appellate levels. She has also practiced in the private and public sectors.
- Patrick Caruso of Madison: Caruso graduated from the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac College School of Law. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney. For nearly 20 years, he has supervised investigations and prosecutions of drug trafficking organizations. He also served as the office’s opioid coordinator and, in this capacity, leads drug awareness presentations at high schools, middle schools, and professional organizations throughout Connecticut.
- Vikki Cooper of Fairfield: Cooper graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Quinnipiac University School of Law. She was Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City of Stamford. Prior to this, she was Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City of New Haven and directed all litigation brought against the city. She also worked as a litigation associate at Carmody and Torrance, LLP and other private firms, and practiced in various areas, such as asbestos litigation, employment law, and commercial litigation.
- Gregory C. Davis of Bloomfield: Davis graduated from Tufts University and Georgetown University Law Center. He worked at The Travelers Companies, Inc. since 1997, where he served as Senior Counsel in the Strategic Resolution Group and his responsibilities included managing and resolving complex cumulative injury litigation related to asbestos, hazardous waste, and other toxic torts. Prior to this, he worked at the law firm of Murtha Cullina and the legal department of Northeast Utilities (currently known as Eversource). He served as Deputy Mayor for the Town of Bloomfield.
- Lynn Alvey Dawson of Cheshire: Dawson graduated from Boston University and Suffolk University School. She was a solo practitioner at the Law Office of Lynn Alvey Dawson, where she represented a diverse clientele that included children and adults in family, juvenile, criminal, and probate matters. She has practiced law for 34 years.
- Karen L. DeMeola of Tolland: DeMeola graduated from the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut School of Law. She was Assistant Dean for Diversity, Belonging, and Community Engagement at UConn Law. Prior to that role, she began her legal career as a civil litigator. She also held several administrative positions at UConn Law, and served as an adjunct professor. She was the president of the Connecticut Bar Association during the 2017-2018 bar year.
- Paul R. Doyle of Wethersfield: Doyle graduated from Colby College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He was a member and partner of Kennedy Doyle LLC, a general practice law firm. He also simultaneously served in public office for 27 years, including three years as a member of the Wethersfield Town Council, 12 years as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and 12 years as a member of the Connecticut State Senate.
- Daniel J. Fox of Stamford: Fox graduated from Loyola University and New England Law School. He was a partner at Curtis, Brinckerhoff and Barrett, P.C., where he focused on municipal law, civil litigation, estates and trusts, corporate law, and real estate. For 12 years he served as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives for the 148th Assembly District.
- Matthew Larock of Weatogue: Larock graduated from Dickinson College and the University of Miami School of Law. He worked in the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, where he was a Deputy Associate Attorney General and Chief of the Employment, Labor, and Workers’ Compensation Section. From 2004 through 2013, he served as an attorney with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. He began his legal career in private practice where he represented parents and children in child protection proceedings and served as a special public defender in juvenile matters.
- Ann F. Lawlor of North Haven: Lawlor graduated from Providence College and New England Law School. She was a Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney, Fairfield JD at geographical area #2 in Bridgeport. She worked in private practice for a few years before joining the Division of Criminal Justice in 1999. Since then, she has worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney, the last nine years of which have been in Bridgeport, serving for seven years in Part A and Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney at GA #2 since 2021.
- Walter A. Menjivar of West Hartford: Menjivar graduated from Vanderbilt University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He was an Assistant Attorney General in the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office. He served in the special litigation section and previously worked in the health and education section, representing state agencies in state and federal courts. He was formerly the Associate General Counsel in the Office of the Governor, where he provided legal counsel to the Governor and executive state agencies. Prior to his public service, he was a litigation associate at Day Pitney LLP.
- Yamini Menon of Westport: Menon graduated from John Hopkins University and American University Washington College of Law. She worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Civil Litigation Bureau of the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. Prior to this, she was with the Division of Criminal Justice for 18 years. She has handled criminal trials, habeas corpus trials, habeas corpus appeals, and juvenile delinquency matters on behalf of the Division of Criminal Justice. Additionally, she served as a legal aid attorney with Connecticut Legal Services representing clients in housing court.
- Thomas J. O’Neill of Fairfield: O’Neill graduated from Stonehill College and Suffolk University Law School. He was a partner at Day Pitney LLP and a member of the firm’s Finance Probate and Commercial Litigation Business Unit and Pro Bono Committee. His practice focused on a wide range of commercial and civil litigation matters in both state and federal courts, including landlord-tenant disputes, foreclosures, lender liability, corporate ownership disputes, tort claims, and alleged unfair trade practices. Prior to this, he was a Victim Compensation Commissioner presiding over appeals from denials of applications for victim compensation.
- Richard J. Rubino of West Hartford: Rubino graduated from Southern Connecticut State University and Ohio Northern University College of Law. He was a Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney in the Hartford Judicial District and has served as a prosecutor with that office since 2000. During his tenure with the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice, he has been predominantly focused on the prosecution of serious felony matters.
- Thomas J. Saadi of Danbury: Saadi graduated from Western Connecticut State University and Quinnipiac University. He was the Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Veterans Affairs and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Prior to becoming Commissioner for the department, he served for almost six years as its Chief of Staff and two years as its General Counsel. He also spent 15 years as a Connecticut Assistant Attorney General and Special Prosecutor. He has 18 years of continuous service in the Army Reserve as a Judge Advocate providing legal support from the company to division levels.
- Sharon A. Skyers of New Haven: Skyers graduated from Duke University and North Carolina Central University School of Law. She was a managing partner at Skyers, Skyers and Harrell, LLC, which she co-founded. Her practice had a primary concentration on personal injury cases and commercial and residential real estate transactions. She also focused on business matters, serving as outside counsel to corporations and small businesses. She has been practicing law for 30 years.
- Jennifer J. Tunnard of Ridgefield: Tunnard graduated from Fordham University and Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. She was a sole practitioner at the Law Office of Jennifer DeCastro Tunnard, where she primarily worked as a litigator/trial attorney handling a vast array of matters from criminal law, personal injury, family, and real estate law as a plaintiff and defense attorney. Prior to entering private practice, Tunnard was a former Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office for six years where she worked in the Appeals Unit and Domestic/Sex Crimes Unit. She has been practicing law for 30 years.
- Emily Wagner of West Hartford: Wagner graduated from Skidmore College and University of Connecticut School of Law. She served as an Appellate Public Defender at the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services, where she spent the past twelve years. She began her legal career clerking for the Honorable Christine S. Vertefeuille, former Associate Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. She then spent four years as an associate at Shipman and Goodwin LLP. She also teaches the Appellate Defense Clinic at Quinnipiac University School of Law.
- Jason Welch of Bristol: Welch graduated from Hamilton College and Quinnipiac University School of Law. He worked for the Connecticut General Assembly as the Chief Legal Counsel to the Senate Republican Office. Previously, his practice focused on professional liability, insurance coverage, and construction and business disputes working for the firms of Cummings and Lockwood, LLC and McCarter and English, LLP, as well as the insurance company Beazley Group. He has served in the Connecticut Army National Guard and the United States Coast Guard Reserves. He also served two terms as a member of the Connecticut State Senate for the 31st Senatorial District.
The new family support magistrates include:
- Jacquelyn B. Kercelius of Hamden: Kercelius graduated from Fordham College Lincoln Center and Quinnipiac University School of Law. She was employed by the Connecticut Judicial Branch as an Assistant Clerk in Family Matters for the Judicial District of New Haven at Meriden. Prior to this, Kercelius worked in civil litigation, engaging in both plaintiff and defense work and representing government entities, such as the New Haven Housing Authority and New Haven Board of Education. Thereafter, she served as a director for a nonprofit specializing in individuals with chronic and persistent mental illness. She also served as a member of the board of directors for the Junior League of Greater New Haven community service organization and as a mediator for the Connecticut Bar Association’s Resolution of Legal Fee Disputes Program.
- Charlene W. Spencer of Vernon: Spencer graduated from the University of Connecticut and Western New England University School of Law. She was an Assistant Attorney General in the Employment Rights Section, where she defended the State of Connecticut in employment discrimination matters filed in federal court and state court, as well as administrative matters brought before the Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities. She has been with the Office of the Attorney General for the last 32 years in different roles, including the Child Support Division.