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Justice Keller takes senior status, allowing Lamont to choose successor

Vanessa Avery of the state attorney general's office, stands for a portrait January 26, 2022, after being nominated be the next U.S. Attorney for the state of Connecticut.
Mark Mirko
/
The Hartford Courant
Vanessa Avery of the state attorney general's office, stands for a portrait January 26, 2022, after being nominated be the next U.S. Attorney for the state of Connecticut.

Justice Christine E. Keller of the Connecticut Supreme Court took senior status Thursday, giving Gov. Ned Lamont and the legislature’s Democratic majority an opportunity to nominate and confirm her successor long before Election Day.

Keller was facing mandatory retirement on her 70th birthday in October, a month before Lamont and lawmakers stand for reelection. Taking senior status creates an immediate vacancy yet keeps her on the court.

Judicial confirmations are not nearly as polarizing in Connecticut as in Washington, but Keller’s long-planned move simplifies the process for the governor, legislature and her successor.

Had the vacancy occurred after the legislature adjourns in May, anyone nominated by Lamont would serve provisionally, not guaranteed a full eight-year term if the governor lost in November.

The governor’s office had no comment on a possible successor, though Keller’s move was no surprise: She notified Lamont in writing on Dec. 28, 2021 of her plan to take senior status at the close of business on March 31.

Keller is not unfamiliar with the legislative calendar. Her son is House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and her husband, Thomas Ritter, is a former speaker.

She was one of the longest-serving judges in Connecticut when nominated by Lamont in July 2020 to succeed Justice Richard N. Palmer. Both were appointed to the bench in 1993 by Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. — Palmer to the Supreme Court and Keller to Superior Court.

Keller, who was well-regarded in her two decades as a trial judge, was named to the Appellate Court in 2013.

“Justice Keller has served Connecticut’s courts with dignity and professionalism for more than three decades.” Lamont said. “Throughout her career, she has authored hundreds of opinions and has demonstrated a strong commitment to fairness, justice, and integrity, and a strong and even-handed application of the law.”

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