Connecticut Chief Justice Chase Rogers is retiring from her position and could be replaced by the United States’ first openly gay state Chief Justice. Governor Dan Malloy nominated Justice Andrew McDonald for the position in January, and the General Assembly is in the process of voting now.
Justice McDonald faces strong opposition, especially from Republicans, as his nomination moves through the approval process. He will face a major challenge with the Senate vote.
Justice Andrew McDonald
Justice McDonald currently serves as an associate justice on Connecticut’s Supreme Court, and has done so since 2013. He attended Cornell University and the University of Connecticut School of Law.
His political career started in the 90s in his hometown of Stamford, where he served as a member of the Stamford Board of Representatives, on the Stamford Board of Finance, and as the Director of Legal Affairs and Corporation Counsel for the City of Stamford.
Justice McDonald was a state senator from 2003 to 2011, serving as the Senate Chairman of the Judiciary Committee during that time, as well as serving on a multitude of other committees. Starting in 2005, he also served as Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate. Justice McDonald also practiced law with the firm of Pullman & Comley, LLC, from 1991 to 2011.
From 2011 to 2013, Justice McDonald served as the General Counsel to the Office of the Governor for the State of Connecticut, meaning he was the chief legal advisor to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and their senior staff.
“I really can’t think of another person in Connecticut more qualified than him. He has served at essentially every major legal role at the state and local levels,” says Representative William Tong, the House Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Justice McDonald married his husband, Charles Gray, in 2009. They currently live in Stamford.
Appointment to Chief Justice
In order to be appointed as Chief Justice, Justice McDonald had to be nominated by Governor Malloy, who sent the nomination to the Joint Committee on Judiciary, or Judiciary Committee, for a hearing to ensure his qualifications.
“I worked with members of my caucus on the democratic side on the Judiciary Committee to ensure that we conducted a fair hearing during the Judiciary Committee process,” says Representative Steven Stafstrom, the House Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The Judiciary Committee was split on whether or not to recommend Justice McDonald, but ultimately passed his nomination on to the House of Representatives.
Justice McDonald was narrowly approved by the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 75-74 on March 12. Five democrats, along with 69 republicans, voted against Justice McDonald’s appointment to Chief Justice.
“We see some of the same Washington-style confirmation tactics and single-issue litmus tests that have come to define the judicial nomination process in Washington trickle into Connecticut,” says Rep. Stafstrom on the opposition Justice McDonald faces.
Justice McDonald also receives wide support from the state’s democrats. “More importantly, Justice McDonald is receiving near-unanimous support from our state’s legal community,” says Rep. Stafstrom.
Justice McDonald still needs approval from the Senate, which will vote by the end of the month. He will need at least one Republican vote from the Senate to be approved, as one Democrat has elected to abstain from the vote.
Should he be appointed Chief Justice, Justice McDonald would make history. “I share a similar experience to him; I’m the first Asian-American elected at the state level in Connecticut’s history, so whenever those walls come down, it’s a significant milestone and great progress for all of us, and I think this is a historic moment,” says Rep. Tong.