HARTFORD, Conn. — In a historic vote, Connecticut lawmakers unanimously confirmed Associate Justice Richard Robinson as the next chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. He becomes the first African-American to hold the judicial branch's top job.
The Senate on Thursday voted 36-0 in favor of Robinson's nomination, with one top Republican lauding him as "a man of the people" who has remained grounded while having a "stellar career" as an attorney, superior court judge and associate justice. The House of Representatives unanimously approved Robinson's nomination on Monday.
Robinson, 60, was Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's second chief justice nominee this session. Associate Justice Andrew McDonald, a former Democratic state senator and Malloy's former legal counsel, would have been the nation's first openly gay chief justice of a state Supreme Court if confirmed. He was narrowly rejected by the Senate in March.
Some of McDonald's supporters, including Malloy, accused opponents of blocking the nomination for political reasons and because McDonald is openly gay. Opponents vehemently denied the accusations, claiming McDonald has been an "activist jurist." McDonald has denied that charge.
While he didn't bring up McDonald by name, Senate Republican leader Len Fasano on Thursday praised Robinson for his "methodology" in reaching legal decisions, saying it differentiates him from "other potential candidates" for the chief justice position. Fasano had opposed McDonald.
Robinson is "not in an isolated bubble," said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, a co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "He is not in some ivory tower."
Robinson replaces former Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who retired in February. Superior Court Judge Steven Ecker was confirmed Thursday to succeed Robinson on the state's highest court.
"The approval of Justice Robinson to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court no doubt makes history in Connecticut, and I wish him the best in his duties leading the judicial branch," said Malloy, who credited Robinson with having a "passion toward building a stronger, fairer society for all."