Chief Judge DiPentima, my distinguished colleagues on
the Supreme and Appellate Courts, members of the bench and bar, and honored
guests: Good afternoon. It is my pleasure today to participate in
celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Appellate Court.
When the Appellate Court heard its first cases on Oct. 4, 1983, the five original judges, under the leadership of Judge Joseph Dannehy and with the support of a few law clerks and staff, took on the task of reducing a significant backlog. Consider that in October 1983, most appeals in civil cases had been pending on the Supreme Court’s docket for two years or more without having been reached for oral argument – a situation inconceivable to imagine today.
The newly-established Appellate Court started off with 215 cases transferred to it from the Supreme Court. It received an additional 26 cases that had not yet been heard by the now-defunct Appellate Session of the Superior Court. So I think it’s safe to say that the judges and staff had their work cut out for them.
In the 30 years since then, the Appellate Court not only met expectations, but exceeded them time and time again. This success is directly due to the dedication of the judges and staff at the Appellate Court who have helped ensure its status as an essential piece of our state court system.
There’s something else extraordinary about the Appellate Court that has nothing to do with numbers, and I'm fortunate to have first-hand knowledge of this aspect. If you ask anyone who has worked here – whether it was a judge, a law clerk, or a permanent staff member – what was most memorable about the time he or she spent here, the answer always seems to come around to the spirit, camaraderie and collegiality that exists. I loved my time here as an Appellate Court judge, and I've been known to mention that if you want the best job in the system a good argument can be made that it's right here.
In closing, I would like to take a moment to talk about the leadership at the Appellate Court, although I’ll limit my comments to our two most recent chief judges. This is because I know that Judge DiPentima will be speaking about the other chief judges of the Appellate Court and specifically Judge Dupont.
Judge Joseph Flynn was chief judge when I was on the Appellate Court. As many of you know, Judge Flynn has many years of experience in private practice and on the bench. He understands what lawyers and judges are up against and anticipates how things will impact litigants as well as the bar. He is very serious about that. For those of you who don't know, Judge Flynn is also stubborn. His most amazing attribute is that while he may be persistent, he is always the consummate gentleman who treats everyone with respect and dignity.
Now, what can I say about Judge DiPentima? I appointed her to serve as Chief Judge in March 2010, following Judge Flynn’s decision to become a senior judge. I can describe her in one word: “perfect.” She is incredibly thoughtful in her rendering of decisions as well as in her interactions with people. She is inclusive and wants to hear from everyone, and because of this, she is genuinely loved by the bench and the bar. She is a wonderful consensus builder, and I am pleased to call her my colleague and my friend.
In conclusion, I want to thank you again for inviting me to speak today. It is an honor to be part of this ceremony and to be with all of you.