dawne westbrook
A screenshot of Judge Dawne Westbrook during a confirmation hearing on Oct. 27, 2023 Credit: Courtesy of CT-N

Superior Court Judge Dawne Westbrook sailed through a confirmation hearing on her selection to Connecticut’s Appellate Court Friday before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, which voted unanimously to approve her nomination.

Westbrook, who has been a judge for the last 14 years and currently serves as chief administrative judge for juvenile matters, won universal acclaim from the legislative committee over more than an hour Friday morning. 

Legislators praised both her professional background — which, prior to becoming a judge, included legal defense and work for groups like the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the Connecticut NAACP — as well as her grounded upbringing.

“Like many Americans, I grew up in a community of poverty, a community of color, where people often didn’t trust the law,” Westbrook said in her opening remarks. “Often their only experience with the law was in response to something happening to them: an eviction, a child protection action, a criminal investigation… I was first attracted to the law because I learned that it was one of the greatest tools to resolve injustice.”

While some members of the committee as well as advocates have argued that Gov. Ned Lamont’s recent judicial nominations have lacked professional and racial diversity, more than one member said the governor “got it right” in his nomination of Westbrook.

Sen. Patricia Billie Miller, D-Stamford, said the judge had served as a positive role model for young Black children that have come before her court. 

“I’m very impressed today and to hear my colleagues feel the same way, as a Black woman — and I’m just going to say that — as a Black woman it makes me proud,” Miller said. “It makes me proud to see another Black woman is being nominated for the Appellate Court.”

Praise came from both sides of the political aisle. Rep. Craig Fishbein, a Wallingford Republican and lawyer who often meticulously reviews judicial nominees, told Westbrook he found little to complain about aside from some spelling and grammar mistakes in her questionnaire. 

“You are a refreshing candidate, to me, at least,” Fishbein said. “You seem, like, perfect.”

“Thank you,” Westbrook said, laughing. “Where’s Representative Fishbein?”

Although the committee’s approval will allow Westbrook to begin serving on the Appellate Court, her nomination must be considered by the wider legislature when lawmakers convene for session next year. Westbrook will replace appellate Judge Eliot Prescott, who took senior status earlier this month.