By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A key legislative committee on Friday voted in favor of Appellate Court Judge Carmen Espinosa’s nomination to the Connecticut State Supreme Court, moving her closer to being the first Hispanic member of the state’s highest court.
The native of Puerto Rico easily cleared the first hurdle in her confirmation process, with 40 members of General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee voting in favor of her nomination. Five members were absent.
She now awaits final confirmation by the full legislature. It’s unclear when the House and Senate will take up her confirmation.
Espinosa, 63, told lawmakers she has been humbled by the outpouring of pride and well-wishes she has received from the Hispanic community since Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he had chosen her to fill a vacancy on the court.
“I have come to appreciate the significance of being first,” said Espinosa, who was also the state’s first Hispanic member of the Appellate Court. She said she hopes to be a role model, proving that hard work and determination can lead to success.
Espinosa recalled on Friday how she came to the U.S. at age three with her family and settled in New Britain. Both of her parents did not speak English, but managed to find jobs and raise three children. Espinosa worked at a grocery store to put herself through college. She graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 1971, received her master’s degree in Hispanic Studies from Brown University in 1973 and earned her law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1976.
While she started her career as a teacher, Espinosa said a friend encouraged her to apply to law school. She said she enjoyed watching the television court drama “Perry Mason” and thought it would be exciting to be a criminal trial lawyer.
“I figured I had nothing to lose by trying,” she said.
Espinosa was first appointed as a Superior Court judge 21 years ago. When asked Friday about her temperament on the bench, she said it’s a matter of public record considering there are transcripts from her numerous appearances in court. But she acknowledged there were times when she presided over serious crimes such as murders and may have lost her cool.
“I’m not a machine. I have to deal with the issues that appear before me,” she said, adding how “I’m older, I’m wiser, I’m more knowledgeable and I have learned from those 21 years.”