Library DrawingThe CONNector

JULY 2001Volume 3 Number 3

Biographies of Judges and Attorneys

Cheryl Schutt, Law Librarian

Have you ever heard of Noah Webster? Of course you have. No, he is not the father of Daniel Webster; he is a cousin. He is the author of Webster's Dictionary and an esteemed legal scholar . He died in New Haven on May 28, 1843. Following is the memorial that was included in the original edition of Vol. 14 of Connecticut Reports, published by Thomas Day [Court Reporter] in 1843 and printed on Pearl Street in Hartford by Case, Tiffany & Co.

"Noah Webster was born in Hartford (West Hartford society) October 16th 1758; educated at Yale-College, and graduated there, in 1778; read law chiefly in his private apartments, but passed one summer in the family of the late Chief Justice Ellsworth, and another summer in the family of the late Judge Trumbull; was admitted to the bar in Hartford, April, 1781, being examined in company with the late Lt. Gov. Goodrich; began the practice of law in Hartford, in 1789; was admitted to practice in the courts of the United States, October, 1790, Chief Justice Jay presiding. At the close of 1793, he left the practice of the law, and removed to New-York, where he established a newspaper, with a view to support the administration of General Washington. In 1798, he removed to New-Haven; and was a representative of that town in the General Assembly of this State, May and October sessions, 1802, May 1803, May 1804, October 1805, May and October 1806, and October 1807. He was a justice of the quorum for New-Haven County, from June 1806 until June 1811. In 1812, he removed to Amherst, Mass., where he continued ten years. During this period he was twice a representative from that town in the legislature of Massachusetts, viz. in 1814, 15 and in 1819. While he resided there, Amherst College was established, and he was president of the board of trustees; and in that capacity, it fell to his lot to induct into office the Rev. Doct. Moore, who was the first president of the institution. In 1822, he returned to New-Haven, where he has since resided. Much of the greater part of his life has been devoted to philological pursuits. The honourary degree of L.L.D has been conferred upon him, by Yale and Middlebury Colleges." (14 Connecticut Reports: Appendix "Statistics of the Connecticut Bar" 20)" Bouvier's Law Dictionary, 8th ed., 1883 (1914-3d rev.), vol. 3, p.2791.

Other sources indicate that Mr. Webster was able to retire in 1803 due to his income from the publication of school books. He published his greatest work, An American Dictionary of the English Language, which recorded words on the basis of their popular usage, in 1828. The reference in his memorial to his devotion to philological pursuits may have been a rather 'tongue in cheek' reference to his dictionary.

The documentation found in the Connecticut Reports is a wonderful source of information for genealogists as well as the legal researcher. Everyone wants his/ her ancestor to have been a renowned and august Supreme Court Justice or an esteemed member of the Bar!

Selected biographies, obituaries and remarks of notable judges and attorneys can be found in the original early volumes of the Connecticut Reports. Librarians of the Law & Legislative Reference Unit are creating a database by scanning the original memorials to make full text facsimiles available on its web site.

Some of the memorials are rare because reprint editions of the early volumes of Connecticut Reports do not include these biographical gems. Fortunately, CSL has a set of early original volumes of Connecticut Reports which are part of the restricted Special Collections. The appropriate volumes have been scanned so that the memorials could be included in a database suitable for mounting on the web. The index includes references to annotated Connecticut jurists who served from the beginning of Nationhood to the beginning of the Post-War Era.

The Law & Legislative Reference Unit has most Judiciary confirmation hearings from 1903 to the present. They are part of the legislative proceedings available in the department. Call (860) 757-6590 for more information.

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