Friday, February 19, 2016

How Many Elected Officials Are Brave Enough To Do Their Job?

The Hartford Courant newspaper recently ran an article, penned by staff writer Christopher Keating, titled "Legislature Approves Judicial Nominations With Little Opposition." While this particular piece, just under 800 words, was published on the 17th of February, 2016, it could just as easily have been published ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Yes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

You see, the process of first becoming a judge in the State of Connecticut, and then of keeping that position is worthy of a novel for sure, but who has the time or resources to write that riveting story? The next question is to ask how many of the 3.5 million residents of our state would care enough to want to know the truth?

Each year, session after session, short or long, the business of pushing through the Governor's judicial appointments is taken up almost immediately - and historically without much question from the elected lawmakers who are tasked with a wide array of resolutions upon which to cast a vote. Whether in the House of Representatives or Senate, it is fair to say that most individual lawmakers have little first-hand knowledge or familiarity with the individuals being passed before them for vote, and so a great deference is given to those who have already served as a Judge (or Senior Judge, Judge Trial Referee, Justice, Senior Justice, Chief Justice and other similar titles referring to judicial officers or jurists).

In our two-party system of state government, party leaders set a certain tone and individual Representatives from all cities and towns, from Greenwich to Stonington to Thompson to Salisbury, and everywhere in between, are expected to fall in line and cast their vote consistent with the wishes of their leaders. The more consistent their voting record, the more political clout they build up within their party, ensuring continued future support when they toss their hat in the ring for a future appointment or endorsement.

Very few legislators have the courage to actually do the job they are there to do - asking questions, probing, holding individuals accountable, including those that may happen to collect a paycheck as jurist. The Courant article seems to suggest that the lone opposition, coming from State Representative Minnie Gonzalez (D-Hartford), is something to be ashamed of, yet it seems more reasonable to ask WHY are not far more legislators demanding more specific and detailed answers of our judges. After all, these people are appointed for eight-year terms, well beyond the average tenure of many legislators, and have lucrative salary, benefit and pension packages in addition to the prestige of their judicial office.  


The so-called 'lone opposition,' voiced in detail by Rep. Gonzalez in the above CT-N video, begins at the 1 hour, 43 minute mark (1:43:25 to be precise). Certainly other lawmakers had quick boiler-plate comments to add about where a judge grew up, went to school or how long they've know the family, but this isn't a popularity contest - it's serious business with serious consequences. Some legislators (mostly those who are themselves attorneys) tried to chime in after Gonzalez and rehabilitate the long-standing system of cronyism and cover-up, but it's likely their next (or first) colonoscopy will be complicated by the fact that the doctor will spend the first 15 or 20 minutes removing their respective heads from the opening before being able to insert the camera to start the actual procedure.

Watch the video for yourself, listen to what Gonzalez has to say. She may not speak as eloquently as some of the others in Hartford, but don't let her accented delivery detract from the message. There is a very real problem with the "Rubber Stamp Mentality" used to blindly approve judges, year after year. The vetting process is not only flawed, but is part of a corrupt organization that has hijacked our judicial system to guarantee that the network of appointees will preserve the status quo.

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