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Hartford, Conn. – Carmen Espinosa is poised to blaze yet another trail in Connecticut.
The first Hispanic appointed to serve as a judge of the state’s Appellate Court and Superior Court is close to becoming the first Hispanic to sit on the Connecticut State Supreme Court.
The Appellate Court judge was nominated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Monday to sit on the court. The 63-year-old Espinosa, who is Puerto Rican, must be confirmed by the General Assembly, which convenes Wednesday.
"She has been a trailblazer," Malloy said. "She was the first in her family to graduate from college. She was the first Hispanic judge to serve on the Superior Court, then the first Hispanic judge to sit on the Appellate Court, and now poised to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court."
Espinosa’s nomination dovetails with the marking Tuesday by elected Hispanic officials and representatives from Connecticut – as well as some from outside the state -- of political milestones made by Latinos in Connecticut during the most recent election.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is holding a news conference on Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, where she will unveil the state's new Hispanic voter registration statistics. Merrill also plans to mark the election of Connecticut's first Hispanic state senator, Andres Ayala, currently a state representative from Bridgeport.
State Rep. Robert Sanchez of New Britain, State Rep.-elect Hilda Santiago of Meriden and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, members of the Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials are also scheduled to be on hand for Tuesday's event.
Connecticut is home to nearly 500,000 Latinos, about three-quarters of whom were born in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Malloy said Espinosa has had an impressive career and is one of the state's most respected jurists.
"She will serve the people well when confirmed to the bench," he said.
State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, the ranking Senate Republican on the legislature's Judiciary Committee, said he strongly supports Espinosa's elevation to the Supreme Court and commended Malloy for making the nomination.
"We continue to seek to have a broad range of racial and ethnic minorities within Connecticut's judicial system and this is a wonderful selection," said Kissel, adding how Espinosa has displayed fairness, thoughtfulness and an even temperament during her two decades as a jurist.
She was first appointed to the state superior court in 1992.
A mother of three from Southington, Espinosa said she hopes her nomination will serve as an example to young Hispanic children that anything is possible if "they stay in school and use education as a bridge to success."
"To be the first Hispanic to sit on all three levels of the Connecticut judiciary would truly be an honor," she said, telling reporters after the announcement that "it's almost surreal" to be nominated to state's highest court.
Prior to becoming a judge, Espinosa was an FBI agent and an assistant U.S. attorney. She also taught French and Spanish in the Southington public schools. Espinosa graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 1971, received her master's degree in Hispanic Studies from Brown University in 1973 and received her law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1976.
Espinosa's nomination marked Malloy's second appointment to the state's highest court in recent days. On Dec. 27, Malloy announced he was also nominating his chief legal counsel, former state Sen. Andrew McDonald, to the state Supreme Court.
If confirmed, McDonald would also fill a vacancy left by a retiring member of the court, Justice Lubbie Harper Jr. The mandatory retirement age is 70.
This story contains material from The Associated Press.