New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was back before the Executive Council Thursday, for a public hearing over his nomination to be the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
It was MacDonald’s second time before the council as a judicial nominee. Gov. Chris Sununu first nominated MacDonald, who has never been a judge but is widely respected in state legal circles, to lead the state’s highest court in 2019.
The Executive Council, which was controlled by Democrats at the time, rejected that earlier nomination, citing MacDonald’s lack of experience, and his background in Republican politics.
That party line vote angered Sununu, who left the Supreme Court without a chief justice until a new council was seated. When Republicans won council control in last year's election, Sununu re-nominated MacDonald, who has led the Department of Justice since 2017.
At Thursday’s hearing, MacDonald enjoyed the strong backing of the state’s legal establishment, including former chief justices and federal judges.
The hearing also brought out critics, including people who say MacDonald did a poor job policing elections, and that his enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions has run afoul of the constitution.
MacDonald himself told the council if confirmed to lead the court, he’d leave his personal views at the door, scrupulously follow the law, and deliver fair impartial decisions in a timely manner.
The full council must still vote to approve MacDonald's nomination and grant him a place on the court.