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Remarks by Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers
Swearing-in Ceremony
June 14, 2007

I cannot begin to tell you what an honor and how humbling it is to be standing here before you – my husband, my children, my parents, my friends, my colleagues on the bench, Governor Rell and various dignitaries -- all of the people who in their own way and with their own words have had such an influence on my life. I must tell you that I am also deeply indebted to a woman who has been a role model to me and countless other women lawyers and judges – Justice Peters, thank you for all that you have done, and for all that you did as Connecticut’s first female chief justice. What Justice Peters may not know is that she was a wonderful source of business for me, as a struggling young associate trying to grow my practice, when she developed during the 1980s through her well reasoned opinions a new body of employment law in Connecticut.


Hon. Chase T. Rogers
Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers

In addition, I must thank Governor Rell for giving me the chance to serve as chief justice. As some of you may know, I had the privilege of first meeting the governor, then lieutenant governor, in 1998, when I was sworn in as a Superior Court judge. Keep in mind that at the time I also had in tow two young children. Governor, I want to again thank you today for not only your graciousness but also for your patience on that day. Just to give you a flavor of that event, one of my kids, and I won’t say which one, was fascinated with making faces into the TV camera while the swearing in was taking place. In all seriousness, Governor, I greatly appreciate the trust and confidence that you have placed in me to lead the judiciary.

I also want to thank the legislature for confirming me. I look forward to continuing to work with you on matters of mutual interest and, while we may not always agree, I know that we both seek the same goal: to make life better for the residents who live in this great state.

To my parents, I simply want to say thank you. For those of you who are wondering, it was my mom who actually believed I could do anything I set out to do. It was my dad who hopefully instilled in me a sense of calm in a crisis and grace under pressure. To my husband, Ted, I want to say that there is no partner who has been more supportive or hardworking than you. You take wonderful care of us. To my Aunt Jimmie, who made me dinners while I struggled through law school, thank you. Finally, to my kids, Sean and Ned, you have grown into exceptional young adults despite all of the years of scrambling in the mornings and the odd dinner times that you have had to experience. I am incredibly proud of both of you.

The Judicial Branch is indeed at a crossroads today, at the intersection of our past and future. Take a glance around this grand courtroom, and you will see portraits of our past – the learned jurists who have led Connecticut’s Supreme Court over the years.

Those faces exemplify timeless principles that bridge two points: where we’ve been with where we’re going. The U.S. and State Constitution. Due process. Equality. Rule of law. Fair trial. Impartiality. Open courts. The men and women who have represented our judiciary over the years have protected these bedrock principles, which speak to the heart of our most cherished democratic values. And as we, a new generation, follow in their footsteps, we know that we must continue their work with the same diligence and dedication to justice.

But we also face a new and daunting world. Consider the ever-evolving face of technology. It has the potential to revolutionize our courtrooms and increase efficiency and public access. At the same time, we encounter identity theft, an Internet that enables both good and evil, and security concerns that we could have never imagined 20 years ago. If it sounds like a tightrope, that’s because it is, and our 21st century judiciary must figure out a way to unleash technology’s potential without breaching the dam.

There is also an increasing sophistication among the citizens who use our courts. We must continue our commitment to openness, transparency and accountability, and use technology to make it easier for the public to see inside our courtrooms. Just two weeks ago, new camera rules that increase electronic coverage of arguments in the Supreme and Appellate Courts took effect. And just over two weeks from now, our judges will vote on recommendations that, if approved, will provide the opportunity for more camera coverage in our Superior Courts.

Several weeks ago, I was driving in my car and happened to hear the homily given by Father Mark Massa at Fordham University. The theme he invoked was “think small, act large.” This theme struck a cord with me because it captured perfectly what my hopes and vision are for the branch. Father Massa explained that thinking small is focusing on the things you have some degree of control over -- your words and your habits, it is the job you can get done in the next eight hours.

In terms of judicial culture, we want people to remember how little things can make a huge difference. I’m talking about simple words like “Can I help you?” and simple acts like taking a deep breath and remaining patient. And I’m talking about simplicity and clarity as well. You can have the greatest and most well-funded programs in the world, but if you don’t know how to bring out the best in people with basic courtesy and respect, then the effort will fail. This is the culture that I hope to cultivate throughout my years as chief justice, and I understand it begins at the top, with an open door and a willingness to listen to all sides.

Since I have become chief justice, I have been fortunate to have experienced the same treatment that I hope to give others. The staff has been wonderful, and I appreciate all that every single one of you has done to ease me into this very big change. From literally showing me where my chambers were the first day, to finding a portrait of my distant relative which now proudly hangs in my chambers, to politely transferring my call when I once again misdialed external affairs instead of the chief court administrator’s office, I want to say thank you. All of these gestures have made a large difference in my first month at the Supreme Court.

I am also grateful to all of the judges who have taken the time to contact me with their thoughts and ideas. One of the things I can assure you about our judges is that when given the opportunity they are not shrinking violets in expressing their views and opinions. Everyone has stepped up and offered to assist, and I can’t tell you how much this incredible support means to me. I am less than two months into this job, but I know that with the talent, commitment, energy and integrity of our judges, the State of Connecticut’s judiciary is ready to meet the challenges ahead.

As I mentioned before, Father Massa in his homily also discussed the concept of “acting large.” He explained that this meant “be extravagant in your hopes for making this world a better place and be ambitious in your aspirations, especially for others.” My goal, while I have the wonderful opportunity to serve as chief justice, is to Act Large.

With this goal in mind, we have several initiatives already under way. The reservoir of judicial experience was one of the first things we tapped into after I became chief justice. With our latest group of new judges, we started a structured mentoring program. As the introduction to the new mentoring handbook says, “… the Mentor Program assists novice judges in gaining necessary skills, in developing an awareness of the complexities of their responsibilities and in utilizing the full resources of the Judicial Branch.”

A pool of about 20 seasoned judges is available, and each new judge has been assigned a specific mentor to work with on a one-to-one basis for a two-year period. Duties of the mentors will range from providing feedback on a new judge’s performance through courtroom observation to discussions regarding demeanor, clarity of rulings and where to get information and find resources. I am immensely proud of this initiative and grateful to the judges who developed the program and are serving as mentors.

We are also in the process of forming a Public Service and Trust Commission. The job of the commission is twofold: Number One, to assess where we are in our stated mission, which is to resolve matters in a fair, timely, efficient, and open manner; and Number Two, to create a strategic plan to assist the Judicial Branch in its mission.

The assessment will include examining public perceptions of our state judicial system and hearing from those working within the Judicial Branch on such issues as the physical and logistic accessibility of our courts; the fairness of treatment in all matters and as to all people; and the efficiency and competence in judicial branch job performance.

We will develop a concrete plan to provide the best possible public service that we are capable of, so that public trust will be enhanced. I am not talking about a strategic plan that is published amid great fanfare and then is put on a shelf in a back closet. We will have an action-oriented strategic plan that makes a difference in people’s lives.

Finally, in pursuing the goal of acting large, we will be reaching out to minority communities to hear from them regarding their perceptions of our courts. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Taking this a step further, it stands to reason that the perception of injustice anywhere is an equal threat. We know that those perceptions of injustice are out there, but I want to dig deeper, to find their cause and work on ways to help franchise the disenfranchised.

I hope that another hallmark of my leadership will be increased diversity among our judges and our employees. The nomination and selection of judges rightfully falls to the executive and legislative branches. But I believe that the Judicial Branch can participate more fully in opportunities to attract minorities first to the bar, and then to the bench. We will be meeting with the chairpersons of the minority bar associations this month to start developing a plan to achieve this goal.

Albert Schweitzer once said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” I love what I’m doing and am confident that we will be successful. I can’t do it without you, and I am grateful for your talent, energy and camaraderie. Thank you.


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