CT News Junkie, by Christine Stuart

A women’s group who has been critical of the “lack of diversity” in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration applauded the diversity of the six lawyers he nominated to the Superior Court bench Thursday.

“By consciously taking steps toward ‘diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of gender’ he is moving the state’s judiciary closer to gender parity,“ Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said in a statement Thursday. “We hope he carries this stance – in both words and actions—to all levels of government and encourages it in all three branches of government.”

Three of the six lawyers Malloy appointed were women, including one who worked in former Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration.

“I want diversity,“ Malloy said. “I want racial diversity and gender diversity and diversity of experiences.”

“I’m clearly looking for increasing the diversity on the bench in the state of Connecticut,” he added.

Three of Malloy’s four judicial nominations in his first year in office were racial minorities. Sybil Richards was nominated to Superior Court, Superior Court Judge Carmen Espinosa to Appellate Court and Lubbie Harper to Supreme Court .

During Rell’s last year in office, she came under heavy criticism for the lack of racial diversity in her nominations to the bench. One of her biggest critics was then-Judicial Committee Co-Chair Andrew McDonald. McDonald now serves as Malloy’s chief legal counsel.

Malloy said he seeks the opinions about the nominations from his Democratic colleagues in the legislature but reserves the right to disagree. He reminded reporters Thursday that they’re his nominations to make.

With 23 judicial vacancies on the court and a budget teetering on the precipice of a deficit, Malloy said he will be looking to replace retiring judges as opposed to filling all of the vacancies on the court. He’s leaving 17 vacancies unfilled at the moment. He estimated that replacing retiring judges means he will be making about 7 to 10 nominations per year.

On Thursday Malloy nominated Leeland Cole-Chu of Salem, Anna Ficeto of Wolcott, Donna Nelson Heller of Riverside, Raheem Mullins of Cromwell, Maureen McCabe Murphy of Middletown, and Kenneth Povodator of Fairfield.

All six still need to be approved by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee and the General Assembly.