Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Walter Mason Pickett, distinguished member of the bench and bar and a retired judge of the Superior Court, was born in New Preston, Connecticut, on December 2, 1885. He was the son of the late Charles Whittlesey and Marie Sperry Pickett. For many years, his father was the editor in chief of "The New Haven Times Leader."
Judge Pickett attended the New Haven grade school and was graduated from Hillhouse High School and, in 1908, Yale Law School. During World War I, he enlisted in the state guard, in which he served as a cavalry sergeant in Troop A, New Haven. Judge Pickett was a member of the charter commission in 1920, and from 1925 to 1926 he was counsel for the New Haven board of education. He served as assistant state's attorney for New Haven County from March, 1909, to February, 1925, when he was appointed a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He continued as a judge of that court until June 29, 1955, at which time he became a Superior Court judge. On December 2, 1955, he retired under the constitutional limitation as to age. He served as a state referee until his death on June 24, 1961.
Judge Pickett was a member of the First Congregational Church of Washington, Connecticut. He was a Thirty-second Degree Mason and a Past Grand Master of the Masons of Connecticut.
As a judge, he was very prompt in rendering his decisions. This was owing to the fact that his keen mind was able to grasp the facts and the basic issues quickly. He was a recognized authority on criminal law and procedure. He was very effective in disposing of cases and was keenly conscious of the fact that justice delayed is justice denied. He wasted no time himself and was impatient of any unwarranted delays by others.
On April 26, 1910, he was married to Kathryn Tomlinson Baldwin. Four children were born to them: Walter M. Pickett, Jr., of New Preston, an attorney: Mrs. Marie P. Moore and Mrs. Sara P. Hotchkiss of Washington, Connecticut; and Mrs. Louise P. Waterman of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Judge Pickett had six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The death of his wife, just one year prior to his own, was a severe blow from which he never fully recovered. He took great pride and pleasure in his family. No matter how great his court assignment was from his home, he always drove home every night regardless of the weather.
Almost by necessity, certainly by tradition, a judge finds himself cut off from many areas of life which are normal for others. Judge Pickett, partly from choice and partly from conscientious scruples, seemed to have closed even more doors than he needed to. He detested any form of insincerity, so much so that sometimes even a gesture of friendly appreciation might be taken only with a grain of salt, unless he was very sure that no flattery was intended. A natural wit and a rare facility with words helped him to conceal a warmth and a kindliness, which he seemed to feel were alien to the judicial temper and which only his close friends were able to see. He leaned over backward to avoid being influenced by personal likes or dislikes and particularly by the strength or weakness of an advocate appearing before him. His aim was pure justice, not complicated by sentiment or expediency. To reach this goal, he often walked a lonely road and missed many a pleasant bypath. So high a dedication can only command a deep respect, not only for results in terms of the law but also for an integrity which permitted no interference and no compromise with principle.