Jessie Cheung, Contributing Photographer

On March 1, Gov. Ned Lamont nominated 22 jurists, individuals with expert knowledge of the law, to serve as judges on the Connecticut Superior Court. 

Among Lamont’s list of nominees are three Yale College graduates: Nicole Anker ’94, Tamar Birckhead ’87, and Alayna Stone ’04. The nominees will sit for hearings before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, with their nominations subject to a vote in both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly. Lamont’s selection of candidates was confined to a pool of individuals who had been interviewed and approved by the Judicial Selection Commission. 

The Connecticut Superior Court is a unified court system, comprising multiple sessions across the state’s 13 judicial districts, offering specialized courts for diverse cases such as major criminal, civil, family and juvenile matters, with each session having its own set of judges. 

“One of the most notable honors of my responsibilities as governor is to fill vacancies in our court system with capable jurists whose qualifications meet the high standards that the people of Connecticut deserve on the bench,” Lamont said. “This group of nominees I am forwarding to the legislature today continues this administration’s effort to ensure that the people who are serving as judges in our state reflect the diversity, experience and understanding of the people who live here.”

Nicole Anker ’94

Anker, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale College, currently serves as the legal director for the Connecticut Department of Correction. With seventeen years of legal practice, she has specialized in both constitutional and employment law within the department. 

Before joining state service, Anker worked as a litigation and employment law associate at two prominent multinational law firms, namely Bingham McCutchen, LLP, and Brown, Raysman, Millstein, Felder, and Steiner, LLP.

Among the nominees to the Superior Court, Anker is one of 13 women and also one of two candidates from Glastonbury.

Anker received her law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1998.

Tamar Birckhead ’87

With 32 years of experience in law, Birckhead began her legal career as a public defender in Massachusetts before transitioning to academia at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. She served as a faculty member there, teaching law and directing clinical programs. Now operating as a solo practitioner at Birckhead Law LLC, she primarily represents indigent individuals in criminal and juvenile courts as appointed counsel. 

In the 2016-17 academic year, Birckhead served as a visiting clinical professor of law at Yale Law School where she supervised students in delinquency defense in the juvenile court in New Haven and taught a companion course. 

Like Anker, she is one of 13 women nominated to the Superior Court, and also stands as one of two nominees from Hartford.

Birckhead received her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1992.

Alayna Stone ’04

Stone holds a master’s degree from the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale College. Currently serving as associate attorney general and chief of the Division of Civil Litigation at the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General, she oversees various sections including Employment, Workers’ Compensation and Labor, Health and Education, Public Safety and General Litigation. Before this role, she spent eight years as an assistant attorney general in the Special Litigation section, representing all branches of state government. 

Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, she clerked for two years at the Connecticut Superior Court, followed by one year each at the Connecticut Appellate Court under now-Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson and at the Connecticut Supreme Court under former Associate Justice Carmen E. Espinosa.

Similar to Anker and Birckhead, Stone is also one of the 13 women nominated and is one of two Black women among the nominees to the Superior Court. At 41, she also stands as one of the youngest nominees and is the only candidate from New Haven.

Stone received her law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2010.

The significance of the court and its judges 

According to New Haven civil rights attorney Alex Taubes LAW ’15, the Superior Court is a court of general jurisdiction, meaning that it hears almost every type of case in the state, highlighting the relevance of the court in Connecticut’s legal disputes.

“All cases pretty much first get heard in the Superior Court,” Taubes told the News. “Other cases, either get appealed to the Superior Court or can be appealed from the Superior Court.”

Grace Brunner, a student at the University of Connecticut School of Law and leader of its chapter of the legal advocacy group People’s Parity Project, emphasized to the News the importance of diversity in backgrounds among Lamont’s judicial nominations.

She told the News that she thinks such selections bring “precisely the kind of experience” needed to positively impact Connecticut residents’ lives as the experiences of the judges can shape their decisions on the bench.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that Governor Lamont has embraced the advocacy efforts of the CT Pro-People Judiciary Coalition, a group our chapter proudly stands behind,” Brunner wrote in a statement to the News. “The current makeup of the Connecticut bench favors former prosecutors and corporate lawyers, which overlooks the valuable perspectives of those with backgrounds in public defense, civil rights, and legal aid.”

The Superior Court bench currently has 35 vacancies.

Adam Walker covers Yale Law School for the University desk. Originally from Long Island, New York, he is a sophomore in Branford College double majoring in Economics and American Studies.