By Wayne Jebian
After a largely genial hearing, the nomination of Appellate Court Judge Carmen E. Espinosa should sail comfortably through both chambers of the General Assembly later this month. The Judiciary Committee approved sending her nomination forward on a 40-0 vote.
During her hearing, Espinosa began her sworn testimony talking about her humble childhood in New Britain after being born in Puerto Rico and the milestone represented by her nomination to the State Supreme Court by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
If confirmed, Espinosa would become the first State Supreme Court Justice of Puerto Rican descent in all 50 states, she stated during her 12-minute introductory statement.
She will be one of just eight in the United States. According to research done by CTLatinoNews.com, the other Hispanic Supreme Court justices are in Colorado, Florida, Texas, Washington State and New Mexico, where three of the state’s five Supreme Court justices are Latino. A Hispanic Supreme Court justice in Oregon retired last month.
Particularly moving were passages in her opening statement about the struggles of her father, Alberto, after he moved from Puerto Rico to New Britain in 1952.
“He worked 60 hours a week, outside in the yard, regardless of the weather,” she said. “He walked to work from our first apartment on Franklin Square because he did not have a car. In the winter, he often had to line his shoes with newspapers to keep his feet warm because he had no boots for the snow.” Espinosa herself, at the age of three, followed her father’s path to Connecticut along with her mother and two siblings.
Inspired by her parents’ work ethic, she paid her way through Southern and Central Connecticut State Colleges with a job at a grocery store, becoming the first person in her extended family to graduate from college. After earning a Master’s Degree in Hispanic Studies from Brown University, she taught seventh and eighth grade French and Spanish, until she was inspired, she told her audience, “by an African-American friend of mine who was applying to law school at the time.”
“Why not me?” Espinosa asked herself, a question whose larger meaning was clear: why should anyone, of any ethnicity or means, limit themselves in what they can hope to achieve?
Quoting a fellow Latina and judge, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, she said, “If you try, and be stubborn about trying, you can do what you set your mind to.”
She joined the FBI after law school and then became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Connecticut. Throughout her career, leading up to this day, Espinosa advanced through a number of firsts: “In 1992, I was sworn in as the first Hispanic, and the first Hispanic female Superior Court judge in Connecticut. In 2001, I was appointed as the first Hispanic judge to sit on the Connecticut Appellate Court.”
Before the hearing, the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association had issued a statement…