Council rejects MacDonald as NH Supreme Court Chief Justice by 3-2 vote

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LITTLETON – The nomination of Gordon J. MacDonald to chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court was rejected by the Executive Council on what the governor called a “partisan” vote of 3-2 on Wednesday.

Voting against the  58-year-old who has served as the state’s attorney general since 2017, were Executive Councilors Debora Pignatelli of Nashua, Andru Volinski of Concord, and Mike Cryans of Hanover, all Democrats.

Voting to support Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee were Republicans Ted Gatsas of Manchester and Russell Prescott of Kingston.

Sununu called the vote the end to bipartisan politics in New Hampshire and the way New Hampshire has done things in the past adding it was time for a break from nominations and confirmations for judicial posts.

“This body has a tradition going back literally hundreds of years working in a non-partisan manner and today the Executive Council has thrown that right out the window,” Sununu said.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald in attendance at the Executive Council meeting Wednesday. Photo/Paula Tracy

Pignatelli said everyone wants a highly-qualified person with unquestioned ethics. “That is the bare minimum, but I am seeking more,” Pignatelli said, “a court balanced on the political-philosophical spectrum from liberal to conservative. And wouldn’t it be nice to have gender balance as well.”

Martin P. Honigberg of Concord was also up for confirmation as an associate justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court at the meeting.

But Sununu pulled his nomination off the table after the vote on MacDonald, which Pignatelli called “childish.”

The meeting was held at the Littleton Opera House in Littleton where MacDonald sat in the audience and heard the concerns raised by Democrats.

MacDonald said after the hearing that he was honored by the support he received adding he was honored as well to work as attorney general. “I’m going back to Concord to do that work,” MacDonald said.