Former prosecutor who resigned from Russia probe investigation tapped for state Supreme Court post

A former top federal prosecutor who resigned from the investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe has been tapped to fill an open seat on the Connecticut State Supreme Court.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced Nora Dannehy's nomination on Friday, calling his former general counsel “a woman of integrity who pursues justice wherever the evidence may lead.” Besides the Trump-Russia probe, Dannehy is well known in Connecticut for leading the successful federal corruption prosecutions of former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland in 2004 and other public figures during her tenure as the first woman U.S. Attorney in Connecticut.

“Nora Dannehy is a person who knows what she knows, but you also know that she cares.” said Lamont, paraphrasing a quote from the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “She cares deeply about justice. She’s going to be an extraordinary associate justice on the Supreme Court.”

She will be presented to the Democratic-controlled General Assembly for consideration. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet for a special legislative session later this month.

Dannehy, a 62-year-old Connecticut native, served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut from 2008 to 2010. She later was appointed deputy attorney general for the state of Connecticut before becoming taking a job with United Technologies Corporation as associate general counsel for global ethics and compliance.

She rejoined the federal government in early 2019 to help then-Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham scrutinize how the FBI and other federal agencies set out to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with the Kremlin.

Dannehy has not spoken publicly about her decision to leave the Durham investigation during the final stretch. On Friday, she did not take any questions from reporters. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who has known Dannehy since high school, said the administration wanted to give the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee the first opportunity to question Dannehy.

When a reporter suggested Dannehy will surely be asked about the Durham investigation during her confirmation hearing, Bysiewicz said, “we'll leave that to the Legislature.”

In brief remarks, Dannehy thanked Lamont for his confidence in her and noted her desire to return to the public realm.

“Recently, I went into private practice with a small firm in Hartford, where I’ve had the fortune to work with excellent lawyers and upstanding people," she said. “But my heart is in public service.”

Dannehy is Lamont's second nominee to the state's highest court this year. In May, Sandra Slack Glover, another federal prosecutor with no judicial experience, withdrew her name from consideration after state lawmakers raised questions about a letter she signed in 2017 supporting Amy Coney Barrett for a federal appeals court position.

Glover tried to assure Connecticut lawmakers that she would not have signed the 2017 letter if she knew Barrett would later vote to overturn Roe v. Wade abortion protections as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some lawmakers at the time voiced concern about her lack of judicial experience and said they had many unanswered questions about how she would perform on the bench.

On Friday, Lamont said he believes legislators are much more familiar with Dannehy. Also, he said his administration learned from the failed Glover nomination to talk to all the legislators and “make sure nobody jumps to conclusions” about a nominee's record. He said he's confident Dannehy will be confirmed.

There was some pushback Friday to Dannehy's nomination from activists who contend Lamont should look beyond prosecutors for judicial candidates.

“Just like a jury needs to contain a cross section of the community with different points of view, different backgrounds and different heritage, the judiciary should contain a cross section of views across the legal system, said civil rights attorney Alexander Taubes, a member of the People's Parity Project.