HARTFORD, CT – Governor Ned Lamont on Thursday announced that he is nominating 22 Connecticut residents to fill vacancies as judges on the Connecticut Superior Court. The court currently has 59 vacancies.
This is the second class of Superior Court nominations made by Governor Lamont since he took office in 2019. His first class was made in early 2021 and consisted of 15 judges.
“Our court system works the best when it reflects the diversity, experience, and understanding of the people who live here,” Governor Lamont said. “These men and women that I’ve selected to become judges not only have the competence, skills, and proficiency to serve the court with integrity, but come from a variety of backgrounds that provide them with the important shared experiences of the people who will come before them. These nominees have the qualifications that meet the high standards the residents of Connecticut deserve on the bench.”
The nominations, which are being forwarded to the Connecticut General Assembly for its consideration, include:
- Alyce Alfano, 59, of Suffield: Alfano graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law. She is currently a law partner at Shipman & Goodwin, LLC in the school law group. For most of her legal career, she has focused on education law, particularly special education. Alfano currently represents boards of education throughout the state in student matters including special education, education policy, residency and disciplinary situation.
- Stephanie Damiani, 45, of North Haven: Damiani graduated from Providence College and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Quinnipiac University of Law. She is currently a senior state’s attorney assigned to the Judicial District of New Haven, where she has served since 2004. She has been attorney for 20 years and a prosecutor for 18 years. She has focused her career on prosecuting criminal cases involving domestic violence.
- Eric Daniels, 59, of Glastonbury: Daniels graduated from Brown University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School. He is currently a partner at the law firm of Robinson & Cole LLP. His practice has primarily focused on products liability work, large loss property subrogation, and business litigation. He has held many leadership positions at the firm over the years, including serving as chair of the firm’s litigation section from 1998 to 2000, as the firm’s managing partner from 2000 to 2009, and as the partner in charge of the firm’s Hartford office from 2016 to 2020. In addition to these roles at the firm, Daniels has served as an attorney trial referee at Hartford Superior Court for more than 25 years, and he has engaged in extensive community service.
- Robert Golger, 60, of Trumbull: Golger graduated from Northeastern University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School. He currently practices at the law firm of Russo & Rizio in Fairfield. He has been engaged in civil and criminal trial practice for over 30 years, representing clients in all aspects of litigation. He has extensive experience in both state and federal courts as well as appellate practice.
- Maria del Pilar Gonzalez, 34, of Guilford: Gonzalez graduated from Quinnipiac University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Quinnipiac School of Law. Since 2018, she has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut and currently is a member of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She is also the District of Connecticut’s Violence Against Women Act coordinator. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice in the Appellate Bureau and at Geographical Area #23.
- Christopher Griffin, 39, of Glastonbury: Griffin graduated from Central Connecticut State University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is currently the deputy assistant state’s attorney with the New Britain State’s Attorney’s Office. Before joining the State’s Attorney’s Office in 2018, he worked for the Connecticut Supreme Court advising and assisting the justices in resolving pending appeals. Before that, he practiced civil litigation as an associate at the law firm of Brown Rudnick, LLP.
- Wendy Grispin, 55, of Danbury: Grispin graduated from Western Connecticut State University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law. She is currently a member of Grispin & Chan, LLC. She has been practicing law since 1993 and has devoted her practice entirely to litigation matters. Her primary practice areas include criminal (adult and juvenile), personal injury, and family law (divorce, custody, and parenting) matters. She has been a member of the Statewide Grievance Committee since 2018, served as an attorney trial referee and judicial fact finder since 2014, and as a special master since 2007.
- Jassette Ann-Marie Henry, 55, of Hebron: Henry graduated from St. John’s University and earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She is a senior assistant public defender with the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services. She is currently assigned to the Judicial District of New Britain, and has previously represented individuals in the Hartford, New London, and New Britain Geographical Area offices. Prior to joining the Public Defender Division, she engaged in private practice, focusing on immigration, juvenile, probate, and real estate matters.
- Scott M. Jones, 55, of Hamden: Jones graduated from the University of Connecticut and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He currently serves as a public defender for the New Haven Judicial District. He has worked in the public defender services for more than 29 years. He served in the United States Army Reserves and is a commissioned officer. He serves on numerous boards, committees, and commissions.
- Tara Knight, 56, of New Haven: Knight graduated from Fairfield University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School. She is senior and founding partner at Knight & Cerritelli LLC and is a private criminal defense attorney. Knight has been practicing law for 31 years; is past president of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorneys Association; teaches trial practice at Yale Law School; and has taught criminal procedure at University of Connecticut School of Law.
- Elizabeth Leaming, 54, of Hebron: Leaming graduated from Colgate University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Catholic University Columbus School of Law. She is a supervisory assistant state’s attorney in Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office. She is a career prosecutor who has specialized in the prosecution of child abuse and sex assault crimes. In 2019, she accepted a position in the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she supervises prosecutors and staff at GA #11 and prosecute cases in both the JD and GA courts.
- Erik T. Lohr, 52, of Granby: Lohr graduated from Thomas A. Edison State College and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He is currently chief of the Civil Litigation Division within the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, where he has served since 2008. Within that office, he worked in its Child Protection and Employment Rights departments, the latter of which he headed immediately prior to his promotion to division chief in January 2019. Prior to practicing law, he served on active duty in the U.S. Navy.
- Christine Perra Rapillo, 56, of Cheshire: Perra Rapillo graduated from Wheaton College in Norton Massachusetts and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has spent her entire career working in indigent defense, first at New Haven Legal Assistance and then the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services. She managed juvenile operations during the implementation of Raise the Age and the consolidation of child welfare and family matters into the division. She has been chief public defender since 2017.
- Cherie Phoenix-Sharpe, 41, of Hamden: Phoenix-Sharpe graduated from Florida A&M University, where she earned both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master’s in Business Administration, and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law. She is currently general counsel to Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and formerly served as deputy corporation counsel for the City of New Haven. She began her legal career as an associate with Murtha Cullina LLP.
- Charles Reed, 58, of Hamden: Reed graduated from Northwestern University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Notre Dame Law School. He is currently managing principal with Loughlin FitzGerald, P.C. He has been engaged in the practice of civil litigation for more than 30 years, primarily handling personal injury cases for plaintiffs and defendants and conducting private mediations and arbitrations. Before employment with his current firm, he was an associate attorney at Wiggin and Dana, LLP in New Haven from 1990 to 1997, and served as president of the New Haven County Bar Association from 2010 to 2011.
- Mary Elizabeth Reid, 54, of Stamford: Reid graduated from the University of Massachusetts and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law. She is currently the supervisory assistant public defender serving the Norwalk Geographical Area. She has been a public defender appointed to serve that community since 1996, representing accused individuals at all the various stages of criminal proceedings. She has been supervisor of that office since 2001.
- John F. Riley, 58, of Hamden: Riley graduated from the University of Connecticut and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Bridgeport. He is currently a trial attorney with Moore, O’Brien and Foti in Middlebury, focusing on personal injury litigation and worker’s compensation. He also serves as an arbitrator in hearing contested personal injury matters.
- Amir Shaikh, 44, of Tolland: Shaikh graduated from Georgetown University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Law School – American University, Washington College of Law. He is currently a partner at Kaufmann & Shaikh, LLP. He practices law in the areas of state and federal criminal defense, child protection, juvenile delinquency, and probate. Prior to entering private practice, he served as counsel to Naek Construction Company Inc.
- Kevin M. Shay, 47, of Old Saybrook: Shay graduated from the University of Notre Dame and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He currently serves as a senior assistant state’s attorney assigned to the Judicial District of Middlesex, and as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. Prior to his government service, Shay was a staff attorney for Connecticut Legal Services, and an associate in the Litigation Department of Nutter, McClennen and Fish, LLP in Boston, MA.
- Neeta Vatti, 53, of Cheshire: Vatti graduated from the University of Connecticut and earned her Juris Doctor degree from Albany Law School. She is currently legal counsel and policy analyst for the Office of the Connecticut Senate Democrats, and assistant director of career and professional development for Quinnipiac Law School. She was a civil litigator for most of her career, having represented both plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of matters.
- Joseph Vizcarrondo III, 43, of Wilton: Vizcarrondo graduated from Wesleyan University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School. He is an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, where he began as a special assistant in 2011. He returned to the United States Attorney’s Office in 2016 after serving as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, where he investigated and prosecuted financial fraud and organized crime. He is currently responsible for supervising investigations and prosecutions of federal law, including violent crime and narcotics trafficking. Prior to his service as a federal and state prosecutor, he practiced general commercial litigation at the New York office of Mintz Levin. He also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York.
- Matthew Weiner, 43, of Hartford: Weiner graduated from Amherst College and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He currently serves as a prosecutor and assistant state’s attorney in the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, where he has spent the last nine years in the Appellate Bureau. He began his legal career clerking for the Honorable Richard N. Palmer, former associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. He then spent five years doing civil litigation at McCarter & English, LLP.
In addition to the Superior Court nominations, Governor Lamont today announced that he is nominating the following two residents to serve as family support magistrates:
- Michael C. Daley, 64, of Farmington: Daley graduated from Trinity College and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Western New England University School of Law. He currently serves as a partner with the law firm Furey, Donovan, Tracy and Daly PC. He has been a litigation practitioner in the areas of both criminal and civil law across Connecticut.
- Ramona Mercado-Espinoza, 64, of West Hartford: Mercado-Espinoza graduated from Central Connecticut State University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law. She started her career as a deputy assistant public defender in Hartford, GA14. Thereafter, she was in the private practice of law, while serving as a magistrate hearing officer for small claims in Connecticut. Currently, she is a staff attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid representing domestic violence survivors in family court.