Rep. Cafero And The Judicial Selection Commission

Attorney and Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie reports on his blog, Daily Ructions, that outgoing House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero will soon appear before the Judicial Selection Commission (JSC), which is required by law to evaluate any person seeking appointment as a Superior Court judge.  Only persons receiving the JSC’s stamp of approval may be nominated to the bench.  Rennie questions whether Cafero is fit for approval as a judge.  The members of the JSC will have to decide that issue for themselves based on the relevant criteria (see below).

Notably, one of the members of the JSC, Stephen J. Conover, a partner in the law firm of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP, was appointed to the JSC by Cafero.  I trust that Mr. Conover will recuse himself from participating in the JSC’s process of interviewing, evaluating and voting on Rep. Cafero’s application. 

What are the criteria by which the JSC evaluates an applicant?  Section 51-44a-18 of the JSC regulations, entitled “Purpose of judicial selection commission in evaluating candidates for judicial office and judges for reappointment to the same court or to a different court,” states:

The Judicial Selection Commission believes that the fundamental role of judges in our system of law calls for judges to be individuals of the highest personal integrity, professional experience uncommon qualities of temperament, intelligence, and character. In evaluating candidates for judicial office and judges for reappointment to the same or a different court, the Judicial Selection Commission shall apply the standards and criteria contained in sections 51-44a-20 through 51-44a-21, inclusive, of these regulations.

Sections 51-44a-19 and 20, in turn, provide as follows:

Sec. 51-44a-19. Minimum qualifications

(a) The following are the minimum qualifications for a candidate for judicial office.
(1) The candidate has a reputation for truth, faithfulness, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing.
(2) The candidate possesses ‘‘judicial temperament,’’ which means that he or she possesses those personal qualities of patience, industry, courteousness, demeanor and faithfulness to the duties of the office which are essential in a good jurist.
(3) The candidate possesses legal ability that is exemplified by professional excellence, a degree of intellect and a technical proficiency equal to that required by the highest standards of the practicing bar.
(4) The candidate’s physical or mental health is such that the candidate can fulfill the duties of the office with reasonable accommodation.
(b) The following considerations militating against recommendation will be given such weight as the Judicial Selection Commission believes appropriate, according to the circumstances:
(1) Conviction of any crime since the candidate’s admission to the bar.
(2) Censure by any grievance committee or court short of suspension or disbarment.
(3) Personal conduct and characteristics that are prejudicial to the performance of his or her duties as a judge.

Sec. 51-44a-20. Criteria for candidates for judicial office

The following criteria shall be considered in evaluating candidates for judicial office:

(1) Does the candidate possess the statutory qualifications for office?
(2) Does the candidate possess the minimum qualifications under sections 51-44a-1 to 51-44a-21, inclusive, of these regulations for judicial appointment?
(3) Does the prospect possess legal ability that is exemplified by professional excellence, a degree of intellect and a technical proficiency equal to that required by the highest standards of the practicing bar?
(4) Is the candidate generally intelligent and knowledgeable?
(5) Is the candidate capable of making up his or her mind and rendering  decisions?
(6) Is the candidate prompt in the performance of duties and obligations?
(7) Would the candidate be an impartial judge rather than an advocate?
(8) Could the candidate act without being duly affected by criticism, partisan demands, public clamor or considerations of personal popularity or notoriety?
(9) Does the candidate possess the qualities of honesty and integrity?
(10) Could the candidate, as a judge, be fair, impartial, and free from prejudice and bias?
(11) Is the candidate courteous and considerate?
(12) Is the candidate patient, attentive and temperate?
(13) Would the candidate respect the confidence inherent in the office of a judge?
(14) Is the candidate free of tendencies which would indicate the possibility of abuse of the power or prestige of office?
(15) Is the candidate free from activities or relationships which might tend to interfere with the candidate’s performance as a judge?
(16) Would the candidate conscientiously perform the duties of a judge?
(17) Is the candidate industrious and well organized?
(18) Is the candidate courageous?
(19) Can the candidate live and carry out family obligations on the judicial salary? If not, what are or would be other sources of income?
(20) Given that the essential functions of being a judge are the ability to preside over a court, to analyze cases, and to render decisions based on the law and facts, can the candidate perform these essential functions with or without reasonable accomodation?
(21) Does the candidate have the ability to express himself or herself clearly and to write clear and concise opinions?
(22) Is the candidate’s personal conduct compatible with judicial dignity?
(23) Could the candidate conduct judicial proceedings with appropriate dignity and decorum and within the canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct?


One Comment on “Rep. Cafero And The Judicial Selection Commission”

  1. John Provencher says:

    I have never been in support of politicians being tapped to serve as judges or justices after their ‘retirement’ from government involvement. After serving 22 years in the Connecticut General Assembly, you cannot tell me that Cafero does not violate the following expectations:

    (7) Would the candidate be an impartial judge rather than an advocate?
    (8) Could the candidate act without being duly affected by criticism, partisan demands, public clamor or considerations of personal popularity or notoriety?
    (9) Does the candidate possess the qualities of honesty and integrity?
    (10) Could the candidate, as a judge, be fair, impartial, and free from prejudice and bias?

    After spending 22 years pursuing the opposite of impartiality, in being political, so much so that he has been elected as House Minority Leader, I would be hard pressed to believe that his particular ingrained perspective is not quickly shed. As someone who has spent so much time pushing back against a majority political group, isn’t that the antithesis of impartiality? Again, with the investigation to his handling of potential election fraud, is that a person who is seen as honest?

    I hope the JSC does the most thorogh review and rejects Cafero, not because of his views while in office, but because of the consequences of his actions and bahviors while in office for over two decades.

    John Provencher


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