Sandra Slack Glover, picked for CT Supreme Court, quizzed on Roe
The U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, upending a half-century of precedent and once again making abortion a matter of state’s rights, cast a long shadow Monday over the confirmation of Sandra Slack Glover to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Glover, the appellate chief for the U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, articulated a belief that the nation’s highest court egregiously erred in discarding the reproductive rights established in 1973 by Roe with a 6-3 decision last year in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“On this I want to be clear and unequivocal: I support a woman’s right to choose, full stop,” Glover said. “Speaking as an attorney, Dobbs was wrong, and egregiously so. Speaking as a woman, it was horrifying. All of us should have a constitutional right to control our reproductive freedom and our bodies. My belief in this is firm and unwavering.”
Glover’s unusually forceful comments in her opening statement correctly anticipated sharp questioning from lawmakers about a letter she signed in 2017 vouching for Amy Coney Barrett, then a Notre Dame professor awaiting confirmation as a federal appeals court judge.
Aside from the concerns over abortion and the Barrett letter, members of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee told her that they saw the state’s highest court as “a firewall” against an activist U.S. Supreme Court that seems intent on undermining affirmative action, gun control and gay rights.
“Is there such a thing as settled law anymore?” Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, asked Glover.
The committee grilled Glover for more than 7 hours in a hearing, then recessed for Democrats and Republicans to meet in separate closed-door caucuses. They returned in public session at 6:40 p.m., with the co-chair, Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, announcing there would be no vote Monday night.
Stafstrom said committee members indicated a desire for further consideration before voting on whether to send Glover’s nomination to the floors of the House and Senate.
“I think the letter is the beginning of the conversation,” said his co-chair, Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven.
The problematic Barrett letter arose from an exercise in bipartisan comity among the legal elite and was an element of the report of her nomination by CT Mirror on April 25. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1998-1999 term, Glover and Barrett were colleagues as holders of prestigious clerkships: Glover for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the court, and Barrett for Antonin Scalia, the conservative icon.
With every other clerk from that term, including those who served justices of the court’s liberal bloc, Glover signed a letter urging Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Barrett was confirmed to the lower court and then again in 2020 to the highest court as Donald J. Trump’s choice to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In January 2017, Glover joined the Women’s March on Washington, protesting the election of Trump as president. At least two members of the committee, Gilchrest and Sen. Ceci Maher, D-Wilton, also were there, fearful of what his election might mean to the makeup of the court, among other concerns.
Her attendance at the march cut two ways. Maher asked how a woman who marched in January 2017, evidently concerned about what a Trump administration might do to undermine the rights of women, could then have signed a letter four months later on behalf of a Trump nominee, Barrett.
“I cannot get past being appalled that you — as someone who speaks to the importance to you of reproductive freedom and your values — that you would have added your name to a letter supporting someone who has had made herself known in her belief systems about reproductive rights,” Maher said.
Maher asked her to explain, neither the first nor last to make that request.
“I’m going to ask you again, and I’m leaving the door wide open, is this something that you would do again, to write a letter supporting someone who took away the rights of every woman in this country?” Maher said.
The answer was no, but not loud enough to be clearly heard. Maher asked her again.
“No,” Glover repeated. “As I’ve said before, I’ve learned a lot in the last six years about our country and about now-Justice Barrett. And, you know, knowing what I know now, I shouldn’t have signed it.”
Glover said she saw Roe as settled law, that the principle of stare decisis — respecting precedent — would prevail.
“I thought the guardrails were stronger. I thought the institutions would hold. I was pretty naive.”
“Thank you for that,” Maher said.
Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, said Glover’s confirmation served as a proxy for broader concerns about what the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court intends in other areas of heretofore settled law.
“I think we’re seeing in the questioning of this nominee a reflection of that concern, and that fear that the rule of law has been put in jeopardy, or at least our conception of the rule of law has been put in jeopardy, by certain actions of the U.S. Supreme Court,” Blumenthal said.
Glover was unusually forthcoming in discussing legal issues, especially when they were framed in terms of U.S. Supreme Court cases. She told lawmakers that, like the Dobbs case, the court erred in its 6-3 ruling striking down New York’s restrictions on carrying firearms in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Bruen.
“This nominee comes in with a thing hanging out there,” Winfield said. “If this nominee is to survive, they have to say more than nothing. They have to say more than, ‘This may be before me, so therefore, I cannot comment on it.'”
Glover, 52, of Guilford is a Democrat who was hired for a non-partisan career job in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington during the Clinton administration, then stayed for the start of George W. Bush’s presidency.
She graduated with honors from three universities, with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in 1992, an M.A. from Duke in 1993 and a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1997.
She moved to Connecticut in 2002, where her husband was a federal prosecutor. She was hired at Wiggin & Dana, then joined the U.S. attorney’s office in 2004, becoming its appellate chief in 2010.
Her husband and their two sons sat behind her during the long hearing in the Legislative Office Building.
Gov. Ned Lamont, while Glover was in the fourth hour of answering questions, told reporters after an unrelated public event that his nominee enjoyed his support.
“I spent a fair amount of time with her. She’s going to do a great job,” Lamont said.
Glover was recommended for the nomination by his former general counsel, Nora Dannehy, a former U.S. attorney. The governor, a Democrat who decried the Dobbs decision and signed a law making Connecticut a safe harbor for women seeking abortion, said Glover was no threat to reproductive rights.
“I think she’s been very clear she reflects Connecticut values and reproductive choice, because that’s the law of the land here in Connecticut,” Lamont said. As for the Barrett letter, he said, “Look, it’s something out of context that people can grab onto. But all the clerks wrote a letter just attesting to her character.”
If confirmed, Glover would succeed Maria Araujo Kahn and become Lamont’s third appointee to Connecticut’s highest court after Christine E. Keller and Joan K. Alexander. Kahn resigned to become a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
CT Mirror staff writer Ginny Monk contributed to this report.