Malloy's legal counsel nominated to high court

Andrew J. McDonald, longtime friend and legal adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy, was nominated to the state Supreme Court on Thursday. An attorney for more than 20 years, he has never served as a judge.

"Andrew possesses an exceptional ability to understand, analyze, research and evaluate legal issues," Malloy said at a Friday morning press conference. "These are the skills that have served him well in his careers previously."

These same skills will make him a "great jurist," he said.

State Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, and pro-tempore state Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, also approved of the nomination.

"While Andrew and I have had considerable political differences over the years, I have always respected his commitment to public service and the law," McKinney said in a press release. "He is qualified and I am confident he will uphold the state constitution and carry out his responsibilities as a Supreme Court justice."

McDonald, 46, will be the first openly gay public jurist in Connecticut if confirmed by the General Assembly. At the press conference, McDonald thanked Malloy for his part in putting an end to the "name game." Charles Grey went from being McDonald's friend to partner to companion until 2009 when Malloy performed their marriage. Malloy said the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision to recognize marriage equality was a "heroic and historic decision" and that he was happy to support them.

"In making this appointment, we embrace Connecticut's great diversity, and I am proud to be able to do that," Malloy said.

Before serving as Malloy's general counsel, McDonald served on the state legislature as deputy majority leader and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for eight years, where he weighed in on bills dealing with gay marriage, the death penalty, gun control and transgender rights.

McDonald was also at Malloy's side from 1999 to 2002 as the director of legal affairs and corporation counsel for the city of Stamford when Malloy was mayor. He has also spent much of his career as a litigation partner for Pullman & Comley LLC.

"As I have said to anyone who would listen, I believe I now work in the greatest job a lawyer could have in the executive branch of government, working for the best governor in our lifetime," McDonald said. "I wouldn't leave it or his administration but for the finest opportunity to contribute to the growth and understanding of the law in our state."

McKinney said he was not concerned about McDonald's lack of experience as a judge. McKinney said he served as a law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Richard Palmer, who was appointed to the bench without judicial experience.

"Justice Palmer is one of our best and most respected Supreme Court justices," he said.

McDonald said he was humbled the first time he argued before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

"The notion that one day I might sit as a member of that court is something I could not have imagined," he said.

If confirmed, McDonald will replace Justice Lubbie Harper Jr., who reached the mandatory age of retirement, 70, last month.

Another nomination to replace Justice C. Ian McLachlan will take place in the next few days, Malloy said.

There are about 27 judges set to retire, but Malloy said he would not be filling all of the positions.

"We will continue to show some restraint in that area in the hopes that we are not hurting the court system, but at this time I don't believe that we should be filling all of those vacancies," he said.

j.somers@theday.com

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