Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Zarella War

I have to admit, I haven't been paying too much attention to the fight over Justice Peter Zarella's nomination to become Chief Justice of the CT Supreme Court. Apparently it's boiling down to yet another tug-of-war between the Executive and Legislative branches of the government. There's a fine dusting of partisanship on this problem, too, but so far the fight seems to be more about procedure and respect than ideology or party.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a Democratic leader of the legislature's Judiciary Committee swapped charges of partisan politics in connection with the nomination of Justice Peter T. Zarella to become chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Rell sent committee leaders a letter accusing them of showing "incredible disrespect" by not yet holding a public hearing on the nomination, which was submitted March 24. The panel canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

But Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, fired back that Rell bears responsibility for the delay by not keeping lawmakers apprised of her plans to nominate Zarella. McDonald also said the panel still is waiting for crucial background information on Zarella, and warned that lawmakers "will not be rushed" into acting without taking due diligence. (Phaneuf)
Rell has always been firm about keeping the powers and privileges of the Executive away from legislative encroachment. In fact, that was one of the main reasons for her veto of the contract bill, and, in fact, for most of her vetoes so far. On the other hand, leaders in the legislature think she is trying to ram Zarella through without giving them a chance to properly consider the matter.

As for whether or not Zarella should be the next chief justice... Who knows?


Phaneuf, Keith. "Chief justice nomination erupts into partisan feud." Journal-Inquirer 19 April, 2006.


goodbye said...

GC: this is the same thing she did with the budget the other day - shaking her finger at the Democrats who run the state legislature - no doubt, the Republicans in the legislature have asked for her finger shaking to help with their election campaigns and issues spinning. I hate rushed nominations for judges and I think the legislature learned their lesson with Mengacci and the other guy a few years ago to take their time and do it correctly. We do have some assholes on the CT bench although I don't put Zarella in that category. Jodi will be deliberative forever, such as the time it took her to "decide" to run for governor in her own right, but she doesn't like it when others deliberate about decisions she has made because she is afterall Grandma Rell.

goodbye said...

Here's what former republican legislator and now columnist Kevin Rennie had to say about Zarella in an Oped piece and here is a fuller account of what Lawlor, who appears in the original post to be quoted out of context, had to say on Zarella.

TrueBlueCT said...

O/T--The New Haven Advocate's Ryan Kearney pens a great piece about a "catfight" between DeStefano campaign director Shonu Gandhi, and Jackie Kozin, --Dan Malloy's 3rd CD coordinator and New Haven resident.

Shonu to an Advocate staffer. "When Jackie Kozin goes around talking about the mayer, she should mention that she wanted a job with DeStefano, but he wouldn't give her one to her because she's done such a bad job with the Young Democrats--she has them doing cocktail parties instead of activism."

Kozin admits she interviewed, but fires back that she wouldn't have wanted the job, because she was told, "I would have to work on the gubernatorial campaign, and it would be expected of me to work on the gubernatorial campaign."

Unfortunately, the story goes downhill from there, with DeStefano's campaign spokesman, Derek Slap, ultimately calling for Malloy to fire Jackie. Youch!

This story is not up yet on line, but I'll post a link when it's available. Thumbs up to Ryan Kearney for the entertainment, and thumbs down to Shonu, Jackie, Derek Slap, Rob Smuts for being petty and stupid.

Genghis Conn said...

Wow. Professionalism galore!

Sounds like the DeStefano people come out looking worse... which seems to be par for the course for that campaign. They can't take two steps without blowing up. The Malloy campaign is good at picking up people who either DeStefano or his staff have alienated, it seems.

ctkeith said...


I though Henry was brought in to stop this pettiness and put an adult face on this campaign!

Dum And Dummer seems to be the Title of this years Democratic Race for the Nomination for te position of Governor with each campaign trying to out stupid the other.

Next thing ya know they'll both endorse Bush's favorite Democrat!

Paul Vance said...

A big fear that I have in the "Zarella War" is that the lines between the branches of government will become blurred. I can understand that since judges are appointed that there is always some political hand in the process and then we expect that the judicial branch would remain independant of the legislative and executive for the most part.

I found Justice Zarella to be a hardworking and personable judge who is well known for the many hours that he puts in. I hope that the legislature does not make Zarella a pawn in a game that is being played with the governor. I have read and heard from many that it is not 'about Zarella', but as of April 15th our judiciary does not have a Chief Justice, the leader of an important branch of government. If there are concerns about Justice Zarella, air them out now and have a vote, otherwise the judicial branch is simply the subject of political football.

(In the interest of full disclosure I did a clerkship in the judicial year 1999-2000 with now-Justices Zarella and Vertfeille and Judge Mihalakos at the Appellate Court.)

Paul Vance said...

I should correct one misconception that I had, at this time there is an ACTING Chief Justice, Justice Borden.

goodbye said...

If this is political it is only because Sullivan set it up to be an emergency to get his hand picked successor, Zarella, in place and Rell fell in to his trap.

CT's courts are run for the judges and by the judges for the lawyers who go there - and not the people. Sullivan was not much of a leader and CT's courts are not models of progression. Not having a permanent Chief is as good or possibly better than having Sullivan.

BRubenstein said...

Dear TrueBlueCt...

A campaign Director shouldnt be lowering herself to cheap "shots" in a newspaper against the staffer of an opponent. Nor should Mr Slap have said what he said. ( and im a DeStefano supporter)

I continue to be amazed at the "amateur hour" antics of the staff...Ms Ghandi and Mr Slap havent helped the effort here and i implore them to simply not reacte to Ms Kozim or anyone else...just go about the business of organizing the best and most efficient campaign you are capable of doing.

BRubenstein said...

The chairs of the Judiciary Committee are right to hold up the Zarella appointment.

They will need time to investigate Judge Zarella..and to do their "due diligence" and this takes time...

The reality is..its unlikely given its late April that there is enough time to properly consider Judge Zarella until after the session...

No one should let Jodi Rell steam roll Judge Zarella through..he might be on the bench for 14 more years as chief justice..thats why the dems need to go slow here...due diligence and probity is a must.

A Different Anonymous (No! Really!) said...

Oh, please.

Lawlor and McDonald are acting like the spoiled punks they are, dragging their feet and sulking because they don't wanna, they don't wanna, they don't wanna.

They know they hafta, they know they're gonna, but they don't WANNA.

Anyone, including me, who has ever had a 3-year-old at home, knows the syndrome all too well. It's unappealing in a 3-year-old. In a legislator, it's beneath contempt.

goodbye said...

The evaluation and hearing is not just about Zarella's qualifications because at the end of the day he will get the job; it is about due process and about letting the Chief Justice know the will of the people as he goes in to his new position.

Maybe your three year old isn't ready to ride without training wheels!!

Paul Vance said...

red october,

What do mean by "about letting the Chief Justice know the will of the people as he goes in to his new position."

goodbye said...

In my simple view of our democracy the legislature represents the will of the people and the comittee
evaluation and hearings bring that out. I am a schizophrenic Republican but I have often heard Senator Chuck Schumer suggest the same and while he is too damn liberal for me on the issues I highly respect his approach to being a legislator.

Paul Vance said...


I can certainly appreciate "due diligence", but it appears that there may be more in play.

red october, I have seen a big change in the civil courts over the last several years. Dockets move more quickly, which is certainly a benefit to the people as well as the judges and attorneys. I cannot comment on the criminal courts, since I don't usually practice in that area.

goodbye said...

The civil cases move well because the lawyers demand it. The don't move well, however, if you have ever gone for jury duty and I did this year.

As for the criminal courts, go sit in an arraignment courtroom or just hang out in the courthouse for a day or two. The Judicial marshals are professionals but that's about it.

ctkeith said...

Hey Paul,

It appears their may be more in play?

I hope so.I'd rather have a governor Elected by the people of this state Nominate the cheif Justice than one who watched with her hands over her eyes the corruption that made the rest of the country call Our state Corrupticut.

This can wait util the next session.

Paul Vance said...


I am a big proponent of saying what you mean and I see from your posts that you don't seem to have a problem shooting from the hip. If there are real reasons Zarella is being held up, I would hope that those who are holding it up would be straight about why.

I have met Gov. Rell and Senator McDonald only once and I have never met Rep. Lawlor. I don't want to guess as to why this matter is held up, I can only compare it to past practice.

Imagine if politicians just said what they meant?

goodbye said...

Lawlor is a decent guy and I have no reason to beleive he has a hidden agenda, but that doesn't mean he doesn't. He's done a lot of work to bring the criminal justice system in CT up to date and I say that as somebody who has spoke out about it but doesn't always agree with Lawlor's solutions or his ways. He probably doesn't want to see any backpedling and I think that is a good thing for everybody.

McDonald on the other hand could be playing politics and everybody knows Rell is politician first.

goodbye said...

Reflecting on what ctkeith has to say about the Chief being appointed by an elected Governor - and forgetting about why Jodi was clueless about what was going on - I would have to agree that this can wait until someone duly elected by the people to be governor- and not just one that does well in the polls - makes the appointment. The honorable thing for Jodi to do would be to wait but it looks like she cut a deal with Sullivan - but she's never been known to stick to her deals so maybe some "Harriet Meyers" noise can be made around the state to get her to swallow her ever prescient pride and do the right thing.

Wrath of Conn said...

From above: Kozin admits she interviewed, but fires back that she wouldn't have wanted the job, because she was told, "I would have to work on the gubernatorial campaign, and it would be expected of me to work on the gubernatorial campaign."

And once again we hear about the blurred line between city government and the gubernatorial campaign in New Haven.

Why does Kozin's statement not surprise me?

Wrath of Conn said...

Oh man I was just trying to find Rells site and entered the wrong address...

MightyMouse1 said...

Lawlor just on the radio and said that Zarella may still be friends with John Rowland.

BRubenstein said...

Paul Vance..what do you mean by " more in play"?

Are you the same Paul Vance from Waterbury that is a Dem on the council and supported Rowland instead of Curry?

Paul Vance said...


You are correct on many regards. I am Paul Vance from Waterbury, I am a Democrat on the Board of Aldermen and I was a supporter of Curry's opponent. That opponent was George Jepsen. I am a democrat, I support democrats.

By 'more in play', I am simply saying that we are not being told the whole story. If the governor tried to sneak this by, say so. If it is being held up for other reasons, what are they? I am biased (as I said before), I like Justice Zarella and I am impressed with his abilities.

Paul Vance said...


What is that anyway? Paul Vance is from Waterbury so he HAD to support Rowland?

ctkeith said...

I'm not biased,

I'm partisan and dam proud of it and the sooner Dems in Hartford lose the words bipartisan and consensus from their vocabulary the better off this state is going to be.If Jodi Rell wins in 06 it's because our Dem legislature and it's leadership have proven themselves totaly inept at politics but batting 1.000 at return on investment for their contributors.

Colin said...

we're getting the lawlor interview re: zarella up on our site as a podcast right now. you might find it interesting.

ctkeith said...


The women of the world had to know whether Clinton wore boxers or Breifs and Your eqivilent questions after Sundays proformance is,

Booze or Ambien?

The world awaits your answer.

Go_Huskies_2006 said...

So Rell just puts this name out there with no time for the legislature to work on it and then holds it against them when they say it might not get done? I don't know what the chief justice of the conn. supreme court really does, but it is clearly an important position and there's no way she should be able to get away with rushing the process.

On the same issue of politicians thinking they can get away with anything, I just read an article in the Danbury paper where Nancy Johnson was at some meetings about immigration (one of them with a group that is rumored to be totally crazy) and she said this

When pressed about her views on immigration reform, Johnson refused to give details, saying she was still soaking in the information.

"You're not going to get a straight answer today," she said. "What I'm telling you is, I don't know the answer."

I guess it's nice she is finally admitting that she won't give a straight answer. As far as I can tell she never gives a straight answer on anything. What's she "soaking in"? Didn't she vote for the Bush immigration law a couple of months ago? So she did that without knowing what she was doing? Is that what she's saying?

This is crazy. The politicians in this state just don;t care what we think of them anymore. They do whatever they want and they don't even bother to explain themselves.

goodbye said...

There is actually a time line the legislature must follow unless Jodi Bells back down - like I said somebody has to start a "Harriet Meyers" campaign - I already did my part by writing my little state reps.

RedRidden said...

wow, i had no idea it was possible for members of congress to not be GOD, but by golly there goes Nancy Johnson "admitting" that she CAN'T (not WON'T - but that was nice, anyways) give a definitive answer on an issue that has divided not only the greater Danbury community, but the entire country...absolutely unthinkable!

i mean, c'mon, at least when Chris Murphy compares the Catholic Church to new-age marijuana/peyote-using religions, he actually takes a stand!

narz said...

The real question here is: Why is Jodi Rell trying to steam roll the nomination of a Chief Justice? What is her reasoning for acting so fast?

I'm still baffled by her announcing Sullivan's resignation and Zarella's nomination in the same press release. Very unorthodox. Either she doesn't care about our government's conventional protocol, or she is naive and doesn't know better.

What is really going on as to why she needs him nominated immediately with no proper hearings? There must be a reason. This seat is the most important judicial nomination that our legislators decide upon. Shouldn't they have a reasonable amount of time to conduct these appropriate and customary investigations?