Chief Judge Lavery, Chief Justice Sullivan, Judges, and
friends of the Appellate Court.
Today, as you know, we commemorate twenty years of the
existence of the Appellate Court. I hope you've all had a chance to look
at the history found in the volumes that are probably interspersed among
you. That history is not only a narrative of past events but of the
persons who participated in those events. Being present at the creation
did not endow me with divinity, but it did give me the privilege of
knowing and admiring all of my colleagues who have sat with me on the
court over the last twenty years.
Today, however, I wish to speak of those judges who have
gone from this life and to speak of what they contributed to this court.
When I was growing up, there were contests held by various companies
that offered prizes to those who completed a sentence in twenty-five
words or less that began: "I like such and such a product because . . .
." I want to suppose today that I need to complete another sentence in
twenty-five words or less. The sentence is, "The Appellate Court of
Connecticut in twenty years has become a great court because . . . ." In
determining how to complete that sentence, I though of our deceased
judges and of what they might have said.
Justice T. Clark Hull was one of the five original
judges of the Appellate Court. Unlike the vast majority of the citizens
of Connecticut, I had never met him when I, too, was appointed to the
court. He was, in a word, "incomparable." In view of Clark's abilities,
he was, understandably, not modest. He had a brilliant mind and a flair
for colorful expression. His opinions are memorable because of his
clarity of thought, and the language he used to express that thought.
Underneath his flamboyant exterior, was a compassionate, generous and
witty man who could laugh at himself. I can almost hear his hearty
laughter now as he listens to my words. He was an intellectual giant and
my very good friend.
Judge Daly was another of our early judges. Judge Daly
loved words games and he, Judge Spallone and Judges O'Connell and
Hennessy spent many mornings before court opened honing their words
skills. Judge Daly was thoughtful and honorable, the perfect person to
keep a confidence, the perfect person to ask for help, with assurance
that the help would be forthcoming. He never engaged in gossip, and he
never had an unkind word to say of anyone. In short, he was a truly
perfect person and the epitome of what a good judge should be.
Judge Joanne Kulawicz was the first woman appointed to a
general trial court in Connecticut. At the time, I didn't know her, but
as a woman practicing law in Connecticut, I became a secret admirer of
hers. When I, too, was appointed to the trial bench, she telephoned me.
Characteristically, she offered to loan me her robe for my first day on
the bench, in case I didn't have one. I didn't, and that began our
friendship. She was appointed to the Appellate Court in May of 1998, and
we began to share our love of the law, and our desire to play good golf,
which, unfortunately, was not achieved in her lifetime, nor, so far, in
mine. In one of her draft opinions, she wrote that the defendant's claim
was a bogie. I asked if she meant bogus and she said no. She meant
bogie, because the defendant's argument was so bad, it was worse than
par. In the last days of her life, Joanne was unfailingly hopeful that
her life could be reclaimed from disease. That was not to be, and she
died in April of 1999.
Judge Burt Jacobson sat on the Appellate Court for only
five months. I had met him first when I was a "new" Superior Court judge
and assigned to civil cases in New Haven where he was the presiding
judge. Sometime during my first few days there, he sent his courtroom
clerk to get me to come to his chambers immediately. Believing that I
was needed to solve a knotty legal problem, I hurried to find him and
some other judges in his chambers. A hook of his robe was caught on the
back of his belt and none of the males could extricate him. Logically,
to them, they sent for the only woman judge in their midst. She could
not solve the problem either but she asked for a scissors and she cut
the hook off, proving that the genders were equal inept, but that
shortcuts are sometimes useful. During Judge Jacobson's very last days
of his terminal illness, he called me because he had not yet commented
on two of his draft opinions. He insisted that his law clerk bring those
opinions to him. In spite of pain, and his knowledge of the finite time
he had, his devotion to the court triumphed and he left life, as he
himself phrased it, "without any decisional hang-overs."
Judge Eugene Spear was the perfect judge, very bright,
very articulate, filled with compassion and having an innate sense of
justice. He believed in the universal goodness of people in spite of his
years as a public defender and his practice of law as a black man. He
and I often talked about the disparate treatment of blacks and women in
society and as members of the bar. In dealing with race, however, he
kept his sense of humor. One day on the bench, a lawyer mistakenly
called him Judge Daly several times, until Judge Spear finally said, "I
am Judge Spear, and you can tell us apart because Judge Daly wears
glasses." Judge Spear did not suffer death gladly. No one does. He spoke
to all of us often and openly during his last days, and we, along with
Gene, wished that his time with us would not have to be over so soon.
Judge Maxwell Heiman had a brilliant legal mind and a
natural ability to lead. He was President of both the Connecticut Bar
and the Hartford County Bar Associations and was chair of the committee
that drafted the original legislation to govern the Appellate Court. His
decisions are models of clarity. Max never assumed that his position on
an issue was infallible and he kept an open mind as to the possibility
that he may have been wrong initially.
One conversation that I had with him remains indelibly
imprinted on my mind. During my testimonial dinner on taking senior
status, Judge Heiman was wheeled into the room. His fight with cancer
was so advanced, he could not walk. After the dinner was over, I talked
to him. I told him that I was very happy that he was there, but that he
really should not have made the effort. He said he had to come because
he respected and loved all of the judges of the court. Judge Heiman did
not need twenty-five words to complete the sentence about why the
Appellate Court is great. He said it all and, to use my favorite words,
Remarks by Chief Justice
William J. Sullivan