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Remarks of Chief Judge Flynn
Connecticut Appellate Court

Admission of Appellate Law Clerks To The Bar, November 9, 2009

On behalf of all of my colleagues at the Appellate Court, I welcome you, the new admittees, your family members and close friends.

We are often entwined with tendrils of the detail of our daily lives. Legal problems or cases which have their own immediacy engage us. Swineburn's lines give us hope in the middle of such quotidian labor when he tells us "even the most wearisome river winds somewhere safe to sea."

Chief Judge Joseph P. Flynn

Biography of Chief Judge Joseph P. Flynn

Admission of lawyers to the bar is one of those important occasions which invites us to leave life's details behind and to examine the foundation our legal house is built upon. What distinguishes a society based on laws from anarchy? The answer depends upon what authority those laws are based.

A legal system sets out rights and responsibilities. Are these rights based simply on the grant of the state? In totalitarian regimes whether communist, national socialist or fascist, the source of legal rights and responsibilities is the state. In these regimes, humankind exists for the state. In such autocratic states men and women have only those rights the state is willing to confer and all of those responsibilities the state ordains. Such totalitarian regimes sometimes impose order but at the cost of loss of basic human rights.

The American system of laws rests on a different foundation. Our founding fathers thought deeply about the meaning of life and expressed their ideas best in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. There they said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.

Human rights are endowed by the Creator under our system. The state does not confer them and thus cannot take them away. Governments exist for the benefit of humankind. Under our constitution and laws, the human race does not exist for the benefit of governments or dictators of any kind. Governments exist to better secure those rights.

With each right we Americans hold is a corresponding responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is license. If the experience of the French Revolution taught us anything, it is that a government where license reigns in the absence of responsibility cannot long endure; and civil society becomes a casualty when men and women exalt their own rights so irresponsibly that the rights of others are ignored and violated.

One cannot truly respect the source of his own rights if he lacks respect for the rights of others.

Pericles in his funeral oration for the dead of Athens reminded his fellow citizens about responsibility when he said that "it was by courage, and by recognition of duty, and the shunning of dishonor" that those who had died had won greatness.

We sometimes dwell on the great material success and the riches with which our country has been blessed. However, the country's greatness lies not in our material wealth. When we exalt pursuit of wealth to the paramount place in our lives, our pockets may be full but our spirits are empty.

On this fall day, recall the words Jefferson penned in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 -

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

As you and I go about the details of our daily labors those words will inspire us to live up to the attorneys' oath we took:

  • To do no falsehood
  • Nor consent to any to be done in court
  • To promote no false or unlawful suit
  • To delay no person for lucre or malice
  • To practice according to the best of your learning and discretion with fidelity to the court as well as your client.

Some of you will be litigators, as were some of us. Do your honest best for your clients. They look to you to take them through their legal troubles. But remember the words of Lincoln, who was not only a great litigator, but a great lawyer.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser -- in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

One of our great humorists once said, "Nothing exceeds like excess." You come to the bar, when our nation is dealing with the results of excess. We encouraged spending, and discouraged thrift. We encouraged consumption and discouraged production. You, the young professional people of our nation, have the ability to lead us out of this difficulty. Whatever challenges our sick economy presents, you have the youth and the talent to overcome.

Finally, enjoy this day. Years of hard work in law school are over, and with support of your loved ones you have attained membership in the bar. Good luck to all of you in your chosen profession.


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