Sen. Markley: Andrew McDonald Is Unfit To Be Chief Justice

Hartford Courant

The drumbeat on behalf of Andrew McDonald’s elevation to chief justice of our state Supreme Court is impressive in both rhythm and volume. His supporters claim that rank partisanship or secret homophobia drives his opposition and that there is no legitimate reason to vote against him.

Ignored in this argument is an alarming affidavit that came to light late in the McDonald confirmation hearing. An incumbent Democratic state senator stated under oath that, at a 2012 meeting with legislators and staff while serving as Gov. Malloy’s chief counsel: “Justice McDonald started screaming directly at me at the top of his lungs in a very personal and shocking manner. He was so angry that his lip was quivering. … I can honestly say that in the 12 years that I have served in elected office, I have never experienced anything as hostile at any time. After the meeting, a number of the persons present approached me to make sure that I was okay and to express their shock and dismay at Justice McDonald’s behavior.”

The senator targeted by this tirade is married to a prominent lawyer who, two years later, had a case coming before the state Supreme Court. In light of the animus McDonald had previously demonstrated toward his wife, the lawyer requested that the justice recuse himself. McDonald refused, then joined in the opinion against the senator’s husband.

I have no reason to doubt the story and have not heard it denied, either by McDonald at his hearing (who did not apologize) or by his advocates in the press. In its March 7 editorial “Make Andrew McDonald Chief Justice,” The Courant dismisses the tantrum as mere “acrimony”: sharpness, harshness or bitterness of speech, as one dictionary defines it.

Harsh, sharp and bitter speech I have heard in my time at the Capitol, but I have never witnessed a scene nearly so menacing as this one described under oath, nor heard of an encounter so disturbing that bystanders felt compelled to check on the victim of the abuse.

McDonald’s outburst was the most outrageous eruption in a campaign of hostility, aimed at a woman with whom I have worked closely and found unfailingly professional and courteous. Were a man acting on my behalf so to behave, whatever the provocation, I would dismiss him immediately. Unlike our governor, I wouldn’t select him to lead our Supreme Court.

It is a matter of record that Justice McDonald has acted in a manner “incompatible with contemporary standards of decency in Connecticut,” to borrow a phrase. I could not disagree more with The Courant’s call for McDonald’s confirmation. The nomination should not be pressed but withdrawn, and the nominee should be encouraged to consider his own fitness for high office.

Joe Markley, Southington

The writer is a Republican state senator and member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.