On Monday, the governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy, named Justice Andrew McDonald as the state Supreme Court's chief justice. McDonald's nomination renders him the first-ever openly gay Supreme Court chief justice in any state — a historic moment for both Connecticut and the nation.
As the CT Mirror reported, Governor Malloy released a statement on Monday announcing McDonald as his pick to replace outgoing chief justice Chase T. Rogers. In his statement, Malloy extolled McDonald's professional qualities and reflected on the characteristics that make him well-suited to serve as chief justice. While emphasizing these qualities, Malloy briefly reflected on the historic nature of McDonald's nomination as well.
Justice McDonald has proven himself to be a consummate, revered jurist who has an 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 ... His experience having served as an Associate Justice on our state’s highest court ... will benefit him well in the position of Chief Justice ... It also can’t go without noting the national significance of this nomination.
McDonald has served on Connecticut's Supreme Court for five years. Prior to his Supreme Court tenure, he served as general counsel for several elected officials in the state. Before that, he served for eight years as a Connecticut state senator.
McDonald's appointment as chief justice must now be confirmed by Connecticut's state legislature.
Following the announcement of his nomination, McDonald released his own statement thanking the governor for considering him for the role. As McDonald said:
I am deeply grateful to Gov. Malloy for the confidence and trust he has placed in me with this nomination ... If confirmed by the legislature, it would be the honor of a lifetime to continue the great and tireless work of Chief Justice Rogers administering justice on behalf of the people of Connecticut in a fair, timely, transparent and efficient manner.
McDonald's nomination has already sparked controversy within the state. According to the CT Post, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst has accused the governor of choosing McDonald for the role for "political reasons" and deemed McDonald unqualified for the position. Herbst noted his objections in a statement, saying " ... he [McDonald] has a demonstrated track record of partisanship, had no experience on the bench when he was first appointed to the court and has a history of supporting unconstitutional measures."
However, as reported by the CT Post, other legislators have accused Herbst of being homophobic in his opposition to McDonald's nomination. For example, Democratic State Rep. William Tong told Hearst Connecticut Media that, “No doubt that this is a dog whistle Trump-style attack on a justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court ... I think he’s obviously trying to smear Justice McDonald and make a personal attack on him and his sexual orientation.”
If he is confirmed, McDonald's tenure as chief justice would indeed make him the first openly-gay chief justice in any U.S. state. However, according to Pink News, the first-ever openly gay chief justice of a jurisdiction's highest court was nominated and confirmed in 2016 in Puerto Rico. At that time, Maite Oronoz Rodriguez was appointed Puerto Rico's Supreme Court Chief Justice and continues to serve in the role today.
Many in Connecticut and beyond are likely eagerly anticipating McDonald's historic nomination and will be closely watching the confirmation process. Rogers, the outgoing chief justice, is slated to retire on Feb. 5. Therefore, it is likely that confirmation hearings will take place relatively quickly, in order to ensure that a new chief justice is put in place as soon as possible.