House approves chief justice nominee by 1, Senate next to vote - WFSB 3 Connecticut

House approves chief justice nominee by 1, Senate next to vote

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Andrew McDonald during a previous hearing on his nomination. (WFSB) Andrew McDonald during a previous hearing on his nomination. (WFSB)

The state's House of Representatives approved the governor's pick to lead the state judiciary on Monday, by one vote.

Andrew McDonald would be the first openly gay state chief justice in the country.

Democrats and Republicans have been sparring over the nomination for months.

McDonald garnered a tie vote by a legislative committee, which put his chances in jeopardy. The vote sent the nomination to the rest of the General Assembly with an "unfavorable" recommendation.

On Monday, the House of Representatives approved the nomination by one vote. It now goes to the Senate for a vote.

The vote was mostly on party lines, but there were some Democrats who voted against McDonald.

State Rep. Daniel Rovero, a Democrat, says the reason is McDonald’s flip on the death penalty.

When McDonald was a state senator, he pushed to abolish the death penalty but prospectively meaning those currently on death row would still be eligible for the death penalty. But when confirmed to the Supreme Court, McDonald voted to abolish it for all.

"I was promised by several attorneys that this is how it’s going to be and couple years later to have someone vote against what the legislators wanted I have a problem with,” Rovero said.

The death penalty is also the issue for Dr. William Petit, whose family was murdered in Cheshire.

"I feel the Supreme Court should interpret our laws not attempt to impose their personal opinions or will upon legislature and people of our state,” Petit said.

Democrats who support McDonald are claiming Republicans are voting against McDonald because he's openly gay.

"I never said all Republicans are anti-gay. I said some Republicans are anti-gay. All you have to do is look at voting records over the last few years on same sex marriage to transgender rights,” said Democratic State Senator Bob Duff.

However Republican leaders say being gay is not the issue. When McDonald was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice in 2013, he got overwhelming support from both parties.

"Senator Duff is totally uninformed. He is not looking at the real issues because it doesn't serve is political interests, he's starting a political agenda that’s unfair and wrong,” said Republican State Senator Len Fasano.

McDonald’s fate is now in the hands of the Senate, and unless some Republicans break ranks, his nomination could be in trouble.

The Senate is expected to vote before the end of the month.

In a statement on Monday, Gov. Dannel Malloy said “Justice McDonald is a consummate jurist who has earned the respect of legal professionals across the state for his exceptional ability to understand, analyze, research, and evaluate legal issues. He has a deep understanding of the role and the impact that the justice system has on the everyday lives of Connecticut residents, and the value of ensuring equality and fairness through the court’s many responsibilities. I am grateful that Justice McDonald has agreed to accept the challenge to serve as the lead Administrator for the judicial branch, and I am pleased that the House of Representatives has voted to confirm him. Justice McDonald’s nomination now moves forward to the Senate for their consideration. A consideration that should be based on a substantive and objective assessment of facts and not based upon a political calculation.”

“I applaud the House for their leadership,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “Justice McDonald is a committed public servant and a trusted jurist—he is the right choice to lead the Court. I urge the Senate to follow suit and confirm his nomination.”

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