Just why the Republican Party is intent on importing the same level of asinine partisan vitriol rampant in Washington, D.C., to Connecticut is a deep, and troubling, mystery. This is a small state. Ideology ought not to trump civility; we actually used to get things done here. But the ideologues want to stop that.
I am referring the opposition among state Senate Republicans to the nomination of Andrew McDonald to the position of Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
McDonald is the choice of outgoing Gov. Danell Malloy, a Democrat, to serve as the state’s top judge. McDonald is well-qualified. He has served on the high court as a justice since 2013.
I had reservations about him when he was first appointed. He had served as a lawmaker and as an aide to the governor. Appointing non-trial lawyers to serve as judges or justices makes about as much sense to me as making salesmen of medical textbooks surgeons. Some things you learn by doing, and that includes learning the law’s rhythm.
But over the years, I have appeared before the Connecticut Supreme Court any number of times. Justice McDonald was part of the panel. His questions were always – or almost always – to the point. He grew into the role of justice. He learned the job by doing the job.
He would have made an excellent chief justice. No serious student of the law, and no serious litigator who actually appears before the high court, doubts that.
Only the mudslingers in the state’s Republican Party made a case against McDonald. Speaking in code, because they lack the courage to speak candidly, they note that were he confirmed, he’d be the first “openly gay” chief justice in the United States.
So, what? I’ve never had a moment to think about his sexual orientation when fielding questions from him in open court. I am about as interested in his sexual orientation as I am in the intentions of the framers of the federal constitution some 200-plus years ago.
Which brings me to another of the hackneyed claims of Republicans: McDonald is a “judicial activist.” This is risible tripe, and any lawmaker using it as a pretext for opposing McDonald ought to be booted from office and made to sell pencils for a living.
Judges are not automatons. They make judgments. I want a judge unafraid to follow the law where the judge thinks it leads. The last thing Connecticut needs is a bench peopled by jurists afraid that angry legislators will note reappoint them every eight years if the judge makes an unpopular decision.
The law respects courage; cowards kowtowing to angry mobs are free to run for the Senate.
The claim of activism is framed most often in Connecticut in terms of McDonald’s vote to declare the death penalty unconstitutional in Connecticut. You can disagree with his decision, but you cannot deny that the law is changing nationwide as to the death penalty, with more states banning it as a barbaric vestige.
Shame on State GOP Chairman J.R. Romano, who is drumming up homophobic hatred and rage over commuted death sentences as a means to block McDonald’s appointment. If this young tryo wants to mud-wrestle, let him find a job in Washington, D.C., where gridlock is the new pastime. We don’t have time for thuggery.
And shame, too, on Senator John Kissel, R-Enfield, who refused even to meet with McDonald before deciding how he’d vote. That’s not mature, Senatorial, judgment. That’s the ethos of a schoolyard bully.
But my deepest disappointment is in Senate Republican leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. He leads the cabal of naysayers opposed to McDonald. He feigns “outage” over claims of Republican homophobia.
When the state needed leadership, Senator Fasano, you blew a dog whistle. Your outrage is translated into my disgust. I hope you pay for this partisanship at the polls.
There’s something seriously wrong in the republic. We fawn over a porn star who has sex with a celebrity. We politicize the act of judging as though there were no neutral principles that can be applied to people of all types by judges of good will.
We’re tearing ourselves apart as roads crumble, an opiod epidemic worsens, and the gap between rich and poor grows wider.
So go ahead, Senate Republicans, gloat over your silly obstructionist triumph. You’ve kept a gay opponent of the death penalty from being chief justice.
Gloat, but don’t dare call this good governance.