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Appellate Court
20th Anniversary Celebration
October 15, 2003

Remarks by The Honorable Antoinette L. Dupont

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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, I agree.

Remarks by Chief Justice William J. Sullivan

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