Chief Justice Rogers, Justices of the
Supreme Court, Chief and Deputy Chief Court Administrators Carroll and
Solomon, distinguished members of the Bench and Bar, family and friends. On behalf of my AC colleagues, I welcome you here today as we celebrate this
special occasion - the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the
According to Chief Judge Bill Lavery, Chief Justice John Speziale is responsible for the creation of the AC, and I quote from Bill’s remarks at our 20th anniversary celebration, Justice Speziale had “the inspiration and the ability to guide the idea of a Connecticut intermediate court into fruition.” On November 2, 1982, fruition took place when the voters of Connecticut approved a constitutional amendment adding simply three words to provide for the establishment of the Connecticut Appellate Court. The legislation implementing the amendment became effective on July 1, 1983. The express purpose of the court was to reduce the ever-increasing backlog of appeals pending in the state Supreme Court. To quote our first Chief Judge Joe Dannehy, "More than a court has been created. The Appellate Court has been created, named and assigned its powers to accomplish an express purpose: to meet a need developed by our peculiar experience, to confront the judicial tasks of today, to secure the people against avoidable delay and to establish a system of judicature and jurisprudence necessary and required in view of existing conditions." The court heard its first cases on October 4, 1983, almost thirty years ago to the day. I am fairly confident that Justice Borden would happily recount the story from that first term of the disgruntled attorney who had to argue his case to the appellate court when he had expected to argue to the Supreme Court. We still hear that complaint on occasion.
Governor William O’Neill appointed the first five judges of the Appellate Court, all of whom had been serving as judges of the Superior Court. The first Chief Judge was Judge Joseph F. Dannehy. The other original appointees were Judge Robert J. Testo, Judge T. Clark Hull, Judge Antoinette L. Dupont, and Judge David M. Borden. We are so fortunate that Judge Antoinette Dupont (“Billie”) about whom I will have more to say in a few minutes and Justice David Borden, the author of 1 CA 1, are here to join us today as we mark this occasion.
A year after the court’s first session, in November of 1984, Judge Dannehy was appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court. Chief Justice Ellen Peters, who is also present today, appointed Judge Dupont to succeed Judge Dannehy as the new Chief Judge of the Appellate Court. In appointing her, Justice Peters stated: “Judge Dupont’s entire judicial career has demonstrated the dedication and ability to fulfill the important responsibilities of Chief Presiding Judge of the Appellate Court. As a jurist and as an administrator, Judge Dupont has compiled an excellent record of achievement which I am certain she will continue as Chief Presiding Judge.”
I would like to follow up on Justice Peters’ remarks, made in 1984, and state with certainty that Judge Dupont, who remained chief judge of the Appellate Court until becoming a senior judge in 1997, continued that excellent record of achievement. She successfully guided the court through its formative years and made us the court we are today. Her impact on this court continues to be immeasurable. Under Judge Dupont’s steady leadership, not only did the court accomplish its stated goal of reducing the backlog of pending appeals, but in doing so it issued well-reasoned written opinions, establishing a consistent and cohesive body of caselaw. She also led the court as it increased from its original five then to six and later to nine Appellate Court judges.
In December of 1984, around the time of her appointment as chief judge, Judge Dupont commented on the rapport that existed among her colleagues on the Appellate Court bench, specifically the fact that most Appellate Court opinions were unanimous. She stated, and I quote, “It’s because, I think, we all work very hard at collegiality, discussing among ourselves and trying to come to a common ground. We spend a lot of time talking to one another and finding cases for one another to read. It’s not five people all going off in different directions. It’s five people trying to find common ground.”
On that note, Judge Dupont was responsible for planning off site synergy meetings for members of the court, the idea being that a collaborative relationship among the members of the court would lead to an increase in communication and an understanding of differing points of view. These meetings, which were originally attended only by members of the Connecticut Appellate Court, later included members of the Connecticut Supreme Court, as well as the Supreme and Appellate Courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Judge Dupont is also responsible for many of our in-house traditions that were continued by her successors Chief Judge Lavery and Chief Judge Flynn, including our swearing in ceremony for Appellate Court law clerks, our annual law clerk reunion dinner, our end of the year pizza party and name the poster contest, the annual golf tournament (w/special thanks to Bill Lavery), the SC/AC softball game, to name a few – events that foster the strong connections of the AC. These events keep us together year after year and provide new opportunities for the Appellate Court "family" to continue the communication, support and understanding Judge Dupont wisely encouraged. Finally, Judge Dupont was the driving force behind our glorious20th anniversary celebration which featured as a guest speaker United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Judge Dupont set a standard for collegiality that has been passed on to the judges who have been appointed to the court, and it is a lesson that I take to heart. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Billie, for your dedication and service to this court, as an original member of this court, as the chief judge, as a senior judge, and now as a judge trial referee. Your innovations, your insight, continue and they continue to improve the court. You inspire me every day.
The Appellate Court has changed in many ways since its inception in 1983. We have grown from our initial five judges to our present nine member court. In 1995, again thanks to the efforts of Judge Dupont, legislation was passed to allow retired judges of the Appellate Court and justices of the Supreme Court to sit by designation on the Appellate Court. At present there are fourteen judges and justices who hear Appellate Court cases. We are fortunate to have this dedicated group to assist with the work of the court. Without their commitment and hard work, the court would not be able to hear and decide as many cases it does every court year. Their wisdom and experience are invaluable.
Many of these same judges and justices also assist the court by participating in the appellate preargument conference program. This program, which was started by Justice Angelo Santaniello of the Supreme Court, is now overseen by Judge Joseph Pellegrino. As a result of this program, many appeals on our docket are settled. Once again, I would like to thank these judges and justices for helping us to reach this milestone.
We have also been fortunate to move to this beautiful new courthouse. As many of you will recall, when the Appellate Court was created, it was housed on the fourth floor of the courthouse at 95 Washington Street. The court was at that location until the fall of 2005 when, tirelessly and skillfully guided by Chief Judge Bill Lavery, the court relocated to this building. As you may know, this building was originally built in 1913 for the Scottish Union and National Insurance Company, the first insurance firm on Elm Street facing Bushnell Park in an area that would later become known as "insurance row."
There were other people who helped us to get to this building. We would not be here but for the efforts of Chief Justice Francis MacDonald, Chief Justice William "Tocco" Sullivan, Justice Peter Zarella, Chief Judge Joseph Flynn as well as Chief Court Administrator Joseph H. Pellegrino. By involving the judges in every aspect of this move, from voting on the design of the Appellate Court bench to forming committees to decide what type of furniture we should have in chambers, what books we should have in the library and what artwork to have behind the bench, to name a few, Judge Lavery ensured the participation and consideration of every member of this court. This attention to every detail is evident throughout this building and we are proud and grateful to call it our home.
Through the years 44 judges have been appointed to the Appellate Court. A good number of those were later elevated to the Supreme Court, including our Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, Justice Nick Norcott, who, as administrative judge for the appellate system provided us with support and guidance (we will miss you), Justice Peter Zarella, who played an integral role in the transformation of this building into the beautiful courthouse it is today, the newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Carmen E. Espinosa and Senior Justice Christine S. Vertefeuille whose service to this court continues in her role as co-chair of the advisory committee on appellate rules and an active PAC participant. In addition to the current members of the Supreme Court, Justices Schaller, McLachlan and Harper who were also members of the Appellate Court are here today.
Finally, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary celebration, during her characteristically eloquent but self-effacing remarks, Judge Dupont recalled the lives of the AC judges who had died and who had contributed to and whose words and legacy continue to contribute to the greatness of the AC. I urge you all to read that speech which is available on the judicial branch website. Since that time, more of our colleagues have left us – colleagues who have done so much to making the AC what it is today. When we were talking about today’s celebration, Billie said to me, how she wished Joe Dannehy could be here. Billie, he is here, as are the colleagues you remembered 10 years ago, and as are those who have left us since then.
A man of integrity and accomplishment, Justice Dannehy died a few months after attending our 20th anniversary celebration. Part of his legacy to us is found in 2 CA 635, 637 where he wrote, “Either we adhere to the rules or we do not adhere to the rules.” Judge Dan Spallone, appointed to the court in the spring of 1984, died in 2007 and left us a legacy of pragmatism and humor. His son, who is present today, described him as a "great father and public servant." The following year Judge Sidney Landau died, and Judge Flynn’s elegiac words best describe his legacy: “the teacher, who had a heart, brought people together, and cared about those among us most at risk.” Judge Albert Cretella left us suddenly in March 2009, and in Judge Paul Foti’s words we remember his warmth and his humor-he befriended everyone and was well known for speaking his mind clearly and often loudly – meticulous, intelligent and with a vast breadth of experience. Judge George Stoughton was appointed to the AC in 1987 and served until he died in 2011 at the age of 91. Judge Dupont described him as “the quintessence of the ideal judge, temperate, learned and impartial. He was the personification of the often repeated words, 'speak softly and carry a big stick,' the big stick being his knowledge of the law and keenness of perception of relevant cases." In December last year, Judge Bill Bieluch left us after serving on the court from 1985-88 and remaining active as a JTR both settling appeals and reviewing appeals for transfer to the SC-for many of us new AC judges Judge Bieluch was an integral part of our orientation to the court-reminding us to carefully review the trial court record and then later the galley of the final opinion. Most recently, earlier this year we lost FXH. His generosity, warmth, wisdom and that Irish twinkle – I continue to recall and cherish his wise words of counsel, his constant thoughtfulness for others- many of us remember his weekly donut delivery for all on Wednesdays. While he was an early leader of the judicial wellness program, at the Appellate Court he cared for all of us. We are indeed a better court because of these past colleagues, and they continue to be a part of our court life.
We have evolved since our inception in 1983, when the stated purpose of the court was simply to reduce the backlog of appeals. As the intermediate court of appeals we generally limit our review to address errors, or perhaps we "tee up" a case for Supreme Court review, but do not invade the domain of that court, by changing the law as time and society require. Now however this court serves as the court of last resort for the majority of appeals in this state and on occasion establishes precedent and develops law on issues that have a broad impact throughout this state. We have gone from publishing approximately 250 opinions per year to approximately 580 opinions per year. This does not include the great number of appeals otherwise resolved. We have done this through the efforts of the judges, judge trial referees, law clerks, both permanent and term, motions staff, our constant and loyal secretaries, court monitor and our marshals. We are ably assisted by the support offices that jointly serve the Supreme Court and the Appellate Court, specifically the clerk's office, the staff attorneys' office, the office of reporter of judicial decisions, and the information technology department. Without their capable and reliable support, the court would not be able to accomplish all that it does. I am happy to say that most of these offices are represented here today. The list would be incomplete if I did not acknowledge the invaluable support we continue to receive from the chief court administrator's office and its divisions: court operations, administrative services, information technology and external affairs. The last mentioned deserves special thanks for the assistance of its director Melissa Farley in providing for today's special occasion.
Once again, I am so glad you were all able to come and share this important day with us. I cannot tell you how honored and grateful I am to be part of the court Billie Dupont built and to work with these remarkable colleagues. Before we gather to share memories and war stories, I would like to express my appreciation to the committee who planned this celebration, Judges Gruendel, Alvord and Keller, along with Atty Jill Begemann. Please enjoy the refreshments in the attorney conference room and feel free to mingle in the courtroom because… MARSHAL YOU MAY ADJOURN THIS SPECIAL SESSION.