Judge confirmed despite objections to ruling




HARTFORD — State Rep. Alfred C. Adinolfi suspects a spot on the Supreme Court is a “political reward” for Appellate Judge Lubbie Harper Jr. for voting to legalize same-sex marriage.

Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, was among 20 representatives and senators who voted against Harper’s appointment to the state’s highest court on Wednesday. The nomination passed overwhelmingly.

Harper was tapped to hear the appeal that led to the Supreme Court’s landmark 4-3 ruling in 2008 that legalized same-sex marriage. He was called up from the Appellate Court after two justices recused themselves.

Harper proved to be the swing vote in the case, and that bothered a number of the 20 dissenting lawmakers Tuesday.

Harper is Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.

“Governor Malloy respects that there will be differing opin ions on issues like these, but be­lieves that Lubbie Harper is the right man for the job,” said Colleen Flanagan, a Malloy spokeswoman.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Kevin D. Witkos, R-Canton, said he could not support a nominee whom he considers to be an activist judge.

Sen. Joan V. Hartley, D-15th District, had objections along the same line. The Waterbury lawmaker was the only Democ ratic senator to vote against Harper.

Hartley said the Supreme Court overstepped in legalizing same-sex marriage. The dis­senting justices in the case said the decision should have been left to elected lawmakers.

“It was absolutely an issue within the purview of the legis lature,” Hartley said.

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled that the state con stitution prohibits the state gov­ernment from denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

The three dissenting judges concluded no such fundamental right exists.

Adinolfi said the Supreme Court appointment smacks of payback for the gay marriage ruling because the 68-year-old Harper is close to retirement age. He will turn 69 on Nov. 30. Under state law, judges must retire at age 70.

Adinolfi said the promotion assures Harper will retire with a higher pension. Judges on the Appellate Court now earn a salary of $152,637 a year. A jus tice on the Supreme Court makes $162,520 annually.

“A lot of us looked at it as a political reward where he would get the higher pension in year and a half,” Adinolfi said.

Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Wa tertown, said he shared the con cerns about Harper’s age. He also said he voted against him because of the same-sex marriage ruling.

Kane said it did not make sense to vote to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would serve 18 months. He said he would have opposed the Harper nomination on that ba sis alon e, regardless of the same-sex marriage ruling.

Reps. Anthony J. D’Amelio, R-71st District, and Selim G. Noujaim, R-74th District, also voted against the Harper nomi nation. The two Waterbury law makers said Harper’s age and his role in legalizing gay mar riage colored their decision.

“Many of my constituents called me regarding his stance on the same-sex marriage vote. That was one of the issues that weighed on me,” D’Amelio said. Noujaim said he also had con cerns about Harper’s constitu tional views based on his responses to questions posed during his confirmation hear ing.

The House voted 124-16 to confirm Harper’s appointment, and then Senate followed with a 24-7 vote. Three Democrats and 13 Republicans opposed Harp er in the House. Hartley and a half dozen Republican senators voted against him.

(Reprinted with permission.)

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