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Insider nomination

Published 12/28/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 12/27/2012 06:05 PM

It is a testament of how far Connecticut has come that the least controversial fact about Andrew J. McDonald, nominated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday to join the state Supreme Court, is that he is openly gay. While his nomination does, we suppose, qualify as another historic first, for most Connecticut residents the detail that Mr. McDonald is in a same-sex marriage is irrelevant, which is how it should be.

This is a state that has grown comfortable with same-sex unions, accepting as a given that homosexuals deserve equal treatment under the law.

But Mr. McDonald's appointment invites debate for other reasons. This is arguably more a political appointment than a judicial one. Mr. McDonald, 46, has no experience on the bench. His experience is as a former state senator and political appointee.

He served as the director of legal affairs and corporation counsel for Stamford from 1999 to 2002, when Gov. Malloy served as mayor of the city. Mr. McDonald now serves as general counsel in the Malloy administration. For much of his legal career, Mr. McDonald worked as a litigation partner for Pullman & Comley, one of Connecticut's largest law firms, where he headed the firm's appellate practice.

In 2009, as co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he helped write proposed legislation that was so extreme as to be troubling, particularly coming from someone now nominated to sit in constitutional judgment on the state's highest court. The law would have directed the makeup of financial boards at Roman Catholic parishes to assure lay members controlled the purse strings.

Thankfully, the proposal experienced a quick death. If enacted it would have been an outrageous infringement on the free practice of religion. The Roman Catholic Church is apostolic, with authority coming from its leaders - the pope, cardinals and bishops. It is not the role of government to direct a church how to organize and control its funds.

At the time Mr. McDonald said he was only fulfilling the desire of concerned constituents for more parishioner accountability following the arrests, and subsequent convictions, of a couple of parish priests for embezzling church funds. But fixing that problem internally is a role for the church, not the government.

At the very least, Mr. McDonald deserves some tough questioning on his views of church and state and on the potential conflicts he may face as someone moving directly from the administration to the high court. As the process plays out, we withhold judgment on the appropriateness of his appointment.

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