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Lamont makes 22 nominations for 58 vacancies on trial bench

Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiwiecz have made gender equity a goal. (Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org)

Gov. Ned Lamont nominated 11 men and 11 women as judges of the Superior Court on Thursday, continuing a push for equity on a trial bench that has inched closer to gender parity.

Two decades after law schools achieved parity in their student bodies, the trial court in Connecticut is 54% male and 46% female, with 127 judges. The system is authorized to have 185 judges.

“Our court system works the best when it reflects the diversity, experience and understanding of the people who live here,” Lamont said. 

Fourteen of the 22 were drawn from the public sector: seven are state or federal prosecutors, four are public defenders, one is an assistant attorney general and two are on legal staffs at the Capitol. The rest are in private practice.

“These men and women that I’ve selected to become judges not only have the competence, skills and proficiency to serve the court with integrity but come from a variety of backgrounds that provide them with the important shared experiences of the people who will come before them,” Lamont said.

About 30% of the judges of the Superior, Appellate and Supreme courts are racial minorities.

The class of 22 nominees is only his second since taking office three years ago. His previous class had eight women and seven men. The new nominees range in age from 34 to 60.

The nominees, who face confirmation by the General Assembly, are:

  • Alyce Alfano, 59, of Suffield. Alfano graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the UCLA School of Law. She is a partner at Shipman & Goodwin.
  • Stephanie Damiani, 45, of North Haven. Damiani graduated from Providence College and the Quinnipiac School of Law. She is a senior state’s attorney in New Haven.
  • Eric Daniels, 59, of Glastonbury. Daniels graduated from Brown University and Boston College Law School. He is a partner at Robinson & Cole.
  • Robert Golger, 60, of Trumbull. Golger graduated from Northeastern University and Suffolk University Law School. He practices at the law firm of Russo & Rizio in Fairfield.
  • Maria del Pilar Gonzalez, 34, of Guilford. Gonzalez graduated from Quinnipiac University and the Quinnipiac School of Law. She is a federal prosecutor and former state prosecutor.
  • Christopher Griffin, 39, of Glastonbury. Griffin graduated from Central Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is the deputy assistant state’s attorney with the New Britain State’s Attorney’s Office.
  • Wendy Grispin, 55, of Danbury. Grispin graduated from Western Connecticut State University and Pace University School of Law. She is a member of Grispin & Chan.
  • Jassette Ann-Marie Henry, 55, of Hebron. Henry graduated from St. John’s University and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She is a senior assistant public defender in New Britain.
  • Scott M. Jones, 55, of Hamden. Jones graduated from the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is a public defender in New Haven.
  • Tara Knight, 56, of New Haven. Knight graduated from Fairfield University and Suffolk University Law School. She is founding partner at Knight & Cerritelli and past president of  the Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorneys Association.
  • Elizabeth Leaming, 54, of Hebron. Leaming graduated from Colgate University and Catholic University Columbus School of Law. She is a supervisory assistant state’s attorney in Windham.
  • Erik T. Lohr, 52, of Granby. Lohr graduated from Thomas A. Edison State College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is chief of the Civil Litigation Division within the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.
  • Christine Perra Rapillo, 56, of Cheshire. Perra Rapillo graduated from Wheaton College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has been chief public defender since 2017.
  • Cherie Phoenix-Sharpe, 41, of Hamden. Phoenix-Sharpe graduated from Florida A&M University with a B.S. and M.B.A. and from Pace University School of Law. She is general counsel to Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and a former deputy corporation counsel for New Haven.
  • Charles Reed, 58, of Hamden. Reed graduated from Northwestern University and Notre Dame Law School. He is managing partner at Loughlin FitzGerald and former president of the New Haven County Bar Association.
  • Mary Elizabeth Reid, 54, of Stamford. Reid graduated from the University of Massachusetts and Quinnipiac School of Law. She is the supervisory assistant public defender in Norwalk.
  • John F. Riley, 58, of Hamden. Riley graduated from the University of Connecticut and obtained his law degree from the University of Bridgeport. He is a trial attorney with Moore, O’Brien and Foti in Middlebury.
  • Amir Shaikh, 44, of Tolland. Shaikh graduated from Georgetown University and American University, Washington College of Law. He is a partner at Kaufmann & Shaikh.
  • Kevin M. Shay, 47, of Old Saybrook. Shay graduated from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is a senior assistant state’s attorney in Middletown and a special assistant U.S. attorney.
  • Neeta Vatti, 53, of Cheshire. Vatti graduated from the University of Connecticut and Albany Law School. She is legal counsel and policy analyst for Connecticut Senate Democrats.
  • Joseph Vizcarrondo III, 43, of Wilton. Vizcarrondo graduated from Wesleyan University and Columbia Law School. He is an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut.
  • Matthew Weiner, 43, of Hartford. Weiner graduated from Amherst College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is a prosecutor in the appellate bureau of the Chief State’s Attorney’s office.

Lamont also announced two lawyers as family court magistrates:

  • Michael C. Daley, 64, of Farmington. Daley graduated from Trinity College and Western New England University School of Law.
  • Ramona Mercado-Espinoza, 64, of West Hartford. Mercado-Espinoza graduated from Central Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut School of Law.

3 comments

Piberman February 26, 2022 at 11:21 am

Our court system works best when our Judges follow our Constitution and subsequent legal precedents. After all judges are required to “follow the law’.

Gov. Lamont has other objectives. Namely our Judges “should look like us”.
Where have we heard that mantra before ? Hmmm.

Piberman February 26, 2022 at 11:42 am

The absence of graduates from Yale – one of the nation’s pre-eminent Law Schools – speaks volumes.

Would we have similar concerns with the backgrounds of our part time Legislators ?
How many have experience managing large private firms ? Or senior level experience in energy ? How many have held senior positions in major CT private firms ? Are we handicapped by part time Legislators not having appropriate backgrounds to deal with the ever more complex issues facing CT residents ? Or is just getting elected sufficient “expertise” in and of itself ?

If relevant experience and education credentials are essential when choosing CT judges why not similar criteria when selecting our part time Legislators ? Is a State with a decade long stagnant economy well served with part time Legislators without major league business backgrounds ? Would we be better off with full time Legislators with sufficient salaries so they could focus their full time energies on serving CT ? Rather than having several part time jobs ?

Rick McQuaid February 28, 2022 at 12:16 pm

Congrats to one of Norwalk’s own Liz Reid!
Truly a remarkable woman who has done so much for so many here and abroad.
This being shown recently by her being chosen to be the Grand Marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
She is also the daughter of long time Norwalk Corporation Counsel, the late Donald Reid.
Thank you, your honor Judge Liz Reid, you very well deserve it.

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