Judge Kari Dooley – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut

Republican Kari Anne Dooley, a judge for Connecticut’s Superior Court (trial court) since 2004, has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.[1]  Before becoming a judge, she worked in private practice as well as serving for 12 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.[2]


Dooley, 54, was born in New York City on May 9, 1963.  She earned her B.A. in psychology from Cornell University in 1985 and her J.D. (cum laude) from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1988.[3]  After graduating law school, she began her career in civil litigation and criminal defense at Whitman & Ransom (now Whitman Breed) in Greenwich, Connecticut.[4]  A mother of two, in 1992, Dooley moved to the public sector as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, staying in the office for twelve years.[5]  She served as counsel to the U.S. Attorney in 2004 until starting as a state court judge.[6]  She currently sits on Connecticut’s Superior Court in Waterbury and hears cases on the complex litigation docket.[7]  Dooley was nominated at the recommendation of Connecticut’s two democratic senators.[8]

History of the Seat

Dooley was nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on December 20, 2017.  The vacancy opened on January 1, 2017, with Judge Roberty Chatigny’s move to senior status.

In May 2017, Dooley applied for the judgeship with Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats.  They recommended Dooley to the White House in August 2017.  Trump officially nominated Dooley on December 20, 2017.

Legal Career

While counsel to the U.S. Attorney, Dooley served as the Child Exploitation and Obscenity coordinator.[9]  Dooley has been involved in a number of high-profile prosecutions involving white collar fraud and child sex crimes.  She was involved in the 1993 prosecution of Stew Leonard, patriarch of the eponymous Connecticut grocery store, for $17.1 million in tax fraud.  He was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison.  She also aided in the 1997 prosecution of his son, Tom Leonard, who pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false tax returns.[10]  She worked with the child victims of the 2001 prosecution of Waterbury, Connecticut’s Mayor Philip Giordano, who was sentenced to 37 years for using his influence and political position to systematically sexually assault children.[11]  Connecticut U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor described her work interviewing the children victims as “masterful[].”[12]  In 2002, she brought 24 federal charges against Martin Frankel stemming from swindling small insurance companies in a scam that caused at least $200 million in losses.[13] In 2004, she prosecuted Danbury, Connecticut lawyer Bernabe “Bernie” Diaz for having sex with and receiving pornography of his girlfriend’s underage daughter.[14]

Dooley by all accounts has a reputation for being fair and a talented lawyer.  Counsel for criminal defendant Diaz, see supra, stated that Dooley “always struck [him] as being fair even though she’s a U.S. Attorney,” and “someone who knows their way around a courtroom.”[15]  Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor has praised Dooley’s ability to work with child victims and her “demonstrated … commitment to the pursuit of justice,” and has decried her as “an immensely talented lawyer.”[16]  The state’s senators echoed these sentiments in their public statement lauding her for having “earned the deep respect of her colleagues and peers”[17]


Dooley has not presided over any published cases, and has participated in 12 unpublished cases, which address a range of criminal and civil issues.[18]  As Dooley puts it, her “judicial responsibilities have included presiding over a variety of criminal, civil, housing and juvenile matters,” and “[s]ince 2012, [she] ha[s] been assigned to the Complex Litigation Docket in Waterbury, Connecticut.”[19]

Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, in a statement released following Dooley’s nomination, described her as having “a well-deserved reputation for her tireless work ethic, a high standard of integrity, and an admirable judicial temperament.”[20]


While research has not revealed publications or speeches by Dooley, Dooley commented on her 2004 nomination to a seat on Connecticut’s state trial court, calling it “a real privilege,” and stating that she “look[ed] forward to staying in public service.”[21]

Overall Assessment

Dooley’s long tenure as a federal prosecutor and state court judge, as well as her glowing reputation among her legal community, make her a consensus candidate for the vacancy.  Although research has revealed relatively little about Dooley, the unanimously positive endorsements she has received for her work both as a lawyer and as a judge suggest an even-handed and thoughtful approach, which should, logically speaking, translate to an apolitical approach as well.

[18] Westlaw search conducted by author, January 21, 2018.

[19] https://linkedin.com, input “Kari Dooley” in search, first result.

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