|When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy makes his pick for the next Connecticut chief justice, the Democrat will have nominated six of the seven people serving on the state's highest court — a rare feat in the history of the governorship.
Lawyers and other legal affairs observers say the court is rarely partisan, focusing mostly on interpretations of state law that often result in 7-0 rulings.
Occasionally, though, a case comes along that exposes an ideological rift, as it did in a 4-3 ruling that abolished the state's death penalty in 2015 when the majority and minority criticized each other in dueling opinions. Two cases currently before the court may also expose such a rift — a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington Arms in connection with the 2012 Newtown school massacre and a lawsuit challenging the way the state funds local education.
"They're not as controversial as you see at the federal level," said Proloy Das, a Hartford-based lawyer who chairs the appellate practice group at the Murtha Cullina law firm. "Our values aren't all that different across the state."
Das and other observers say the biggest impact of the Malloy nominations may be increased diversity on the court.
Malloy-nominated Justices Richard Robinson and Raheem Mullins are black. Newly appointed Justice Maria Araujo Kahn is one of two full-time female justices, joining soon-to-be-retiring Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who was nominated by Republican former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. And Justice Andrew McDonald, also picked by Malloy, is the court's first openly gay member.