Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he is appointing Appellate Court Judge Christine E. Keller to serve on the Connecticut Supreme Court. An Appellate Court judge and resident of Hartford, Judge Keller will fill the vacancy created when Justice Richard Palmer reached the mandatory age of retirement in May.
In addition, Governor Lamont announced the appointment of three others to fill vacancies on the Appellate Court, each of whom currently serves as a judge of the Superior Court. They include Judge Joan Alexander, who will fill the vacancy that is expected to be created when Chief Appellate Judge Alexandra DiPentima takes senior status on July 31; Judge Melanie Cradle, who will fill the vacancy created when Judge Robert Devlin reached the mandatory age of retirement in April; and Judge Jose A. Suarez, who will fill the vacancy that is expected to be created by the elevation of Judge Keller to the Supreme Court.
Because the General Assembly is not currently in regular session, all four appointments are interim appointments subject to approval by the Judiciary Committee within 45 days of their appointments.
“Nominating people to serve on our courts is one of the most important responsibilities of a governor. These jurists have an enormous impact on our communities, and the individuals who serve in these roles must display a strong commitment to fairness and justice,” Governor Lamont said. “These nominations represent some of the best and brightest legal minds in Connecticut. I am confident that each of them will serve with the same integrity and competence they already have demonstrated throughout their distinguished judicial careers.”
The Honorable Christine E. Keller
Judge Keller, 67, is a resident of Hartford, Connecticut. She has served as a judge of the Appellate Court since 2013. Immediately prior to that, she served on the Superior Court beginning in 1993. Before her appointment to the bench, she served as a family support magistrate beginning in 1989.
While on the Superior Court, Judge Keller served as presiding judge in both the Hartford and Plainville juvenile courts. She also served terms in Waterbury criminal court, New Britain civil and family courts, the Middletown Regional Child Protection Session, and Hartford criminal and civil courts. From 1997 to 2002, she served as the statewide Chief Administrative Judge for Juvenile Matters.
In 2005, she was appointed Administrative Judge for the Hartford Judicial District, a position that she held until 2007 when she was reappointed a second time as Chief Administrative Judge for Juvenile Matters, a position she held until 2012.
Judge Keller has served on a number of task forces and committees affecting juvenile issues, including the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and the Child Advocate Advisory Board. She has also served on the Court Improvement Project Advisory Board and the Governor’s Task Force on Judicial Reform, which addressed openness in the judicial branch. She was chairperson of the Committee on Judicial Ethics, and from 1997 to 2005 was a member of the Superior Court Rules Committee. She also served as chair of a task force to recommend revisions to the juvenile rules of practice and a member of a subcommittee proposing revisions to the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Prior to her appointment as a family support magistrate and after graduation from law school, Judge Keller practiced family, personal injury, and real estate law at Neighborhood Legal Services in Hartford, and subsequently worked at the Office of the Corporation Counsel for the City of Hartford and the law firm of Ritter and Keller.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1974, and her juris doctor from UConn Law School in 1977.
The Honorable Joan Alexander
Judge Alexander, 58, is a resident of Cromwell, Connecticut. She has served on the Superior Court since 2000. She is currently the Chief Administrative Judge for the Criminal Division and is assigned as the Administrative and Presiding Judge for criminal matters in the Fairfield Judicial District. She is also currently the chair of the Sentence Review Division and co-chair of the Judicial-Media Committee. Previously, she was the Administrative Judge in the New Britain Judicial District, and has served as the Presiding Criminal Judge in New Britain, Hartford, Waterbury, and Litchfield Judicial Districts and in the New Haven GA court.
Before joining the bench, Judge Alexander was a prosecutor with the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice. She was assigned to the Waterbury and Hartford State’s Attorneys offices, and then became supervisor of the Statewide Prosecution Bureau. During her time as prosecutor, she handled numerous homicide and arson cases.
Judge Alexander earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1984, and her juris doctor from UConn Law School in 1987.
The Honorable Melanie Cradle
Judge Cradle, 49, is a resident of Durham, Connecticut. She has served on the Superior Court since 2013. She heard criminal cases in Bridgeport for a year before moving to the New Haven Judicial District in 2014. In 2015, she became the presiding judge in GA 23 in New Haven. Judge Cradle also serves on the Law Library Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee of the Superior Court, and the Criminal Justice Commission. She is a member of the New Haven Inn of Court, a James W. Cooper Fellow with the Connecticut Bar Foundation, and an adjunct professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law.
Before her appointment to the bench, Judge Cradle was Senior Assistant State’s Attorney for the Ansonia/Milford Judicial District. She also served as Assistant State’s Attorney in the New Haven Geographical Area courthouse and an adjunct professor at Housatonic Community College.
Judge Cradle has served as a member of the National College of District Attorneys, the National Association of Black Prosecutors, the Ansonia/Milford Multidisciplinary Team, and the State of Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice Diversity Committee. She was also a mentor for the Lawyers Collaborative for Diversity.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University in 1993, and her juris doctor from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1998.
Upon her appointment, Judge Cradle will become the first African-American woman to serve on the Appellate Court.
The Honorable Jose A. Suarez
Judge Suarez, 54, is a resident of Chester, Connecticut. He has served on the Superior Court since 2009. He currently serves as the Administrative Judge for the Middlesex Judicial District, a position he has held since 2017. During his first three years on the bench, he served in the Tolland Judicial District, where he heard criminal and family matters. From 2012 to 2015, he was assigned to the Hartford Judicial District and presided over criminal jury trials, and from 2015 to 2017, he was the Presiding Judge for the Hartford Judicial District Family Division. As a Superior Court judge, he has authored more than 90 opinions and has presided over 50 jury trials.
Before joining the bench, Judge Suarez worked in several capacities in the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. From 1996 to 2003, he worked in the office’s Child Protection Unit, where he handled complex child protection matters. In 2003, he transferred to the office’s Environment Department, where he primarily handled climate change matters in Connecticut and throughout the country.
Judge Suarez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Connecticut with his family at the age of 11. He earned his bachelor’s degree from University of Dayton in 1989, and his juris doctor from UConn School of Law in 1993.