Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 221, page(s) 929-931


February 20, 1992

Before we start hearing cases on today's calendar, we will take a few moments to mark a milestone in the changing composition of this court. For more than ten years, Justice David M. Shea has enriched our jurisprudence with his incisive questions from the bench, with his reflective opinions and with his provocative dissents. With profound appreciation for his outstanding judicial service, and great regret at his imminent departure when he celebrates his seventieth birthday, I must report that this is the last day on which Justice David M. Shea will be sitting to hear cases as a member of this court.

Someone reading Justice Shea's self-effacing and skeletonic biographical sketch in the Connecticut State Register and Manual, which records his twenty-six years as a jurist, might understandably overlook the fact that he was not always a judge! Yet at conference he often refers, with pleasure, to the satisfaction he derived from the practice of law for eighteen years with the law firm of Bailey, Wechsler and Shea.

Justice Shea's learning from practice, wed to the sound intellectual underpinnings from which he benefitted at the Yale Law School, have combined to produce an approach to the law that is imbued with common sense about procedure and with realism about what courts can accomplish substantively. It is therefore altogether unsurprising that Justice Shea's fulfilling career as an attorney was followed, beginning on January 1, 1966, by an illustrious judicial career. Widely recognized as a scholar, Justice Shea took to the bench as the well known "duck to water."

Because I am most familiar with his work on the Supreme Court, let me briefly highlight this aspect of his judicial life. During his distinguished tenure on this court, Justice Shea has contributed more than 300 majority opinions to the development of Connecticut jurisprudence. Justice Shea has helped us to refine areas of the law that have long been familiar, such as Connecticut zoning law, and to explore areas of the law that hardly existed when he was in practice, let alone in law school.

One example of such an exploration is the problem of deciding what meaning we should ascribe to constitutional provisions contained in our state constitution as a source of law independent of the constitution of the United States. Justice Shea's landmark opinions on state constitutional law resoundingly affirm the principles of dual sovereignty. They also illustrate that state constitutional law is no less controversial than is federal constitutional law. In the context of the respective roles of the legislature and the judiciary, Cologne v. Westfarms Associates discussed the extent to which our state constitution protects rights of free speech and petition when they clash with the rights of owners of private property. Some of us might still be inclined to draw that line differently. Pellegrino v. O'Neill recognized in principle the inherent power of the judicial branch to command the fiscal resources required to operate an effective system of justice, a principle recently tested in our neighboring state of New York, but determined that private citizens could not compel the legislature to remedy court congestion by appointing additional judges. Administrative experience has belatedly taught me the wisdom of Justice Shea's counsel to exercise judicial restraint.

On the criminal side of our calendar, Justice Shea's persuasive powers have never been more evident than in State v. Marsala, where he led a unanimous court to conclude that the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule is incompatible with the Connecticut constitution. Important for itself, that decision also led to a reconsideration of other related issues in our state constitutional approach to criminal law.

As is true for all of us, Justice Shea's views have not always commanded immediate majority support. The frequency (some seventy-nine, by the last unofficial count) and the vigor of his dissenting opinions are well known. His dissents have focused our attention on points of disagreement and have, on several occasions, become a significant part of Connecticut's legal landscape. For example, his reminder, in cases such as Andrew Ansaldi Co. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, that the rules of procedure should facilitate rather than obstruct litigation, helped to highlight the need for legislative as well as judicial reform.

Despite the extensive amount of time that Justice Shea devotes to the crafting of scholarly opinions, and to their discussion with his law clerk, he has always been available to assist in judicial administration. All the judges will miss his leadership as chairman of the Rules Committee of the Superior Court, and we on the Supreme Court will especially miss his prodigious institutional memory of the origin of many of our appellate rules.

In closing, I speak on behalf of every member of the Judicial Branch in thanking you, Justice Shea, for your many years of faithful service in the past and in extending to you our best wishes for good health and much happiness for the future. We are fortunate that your expertise will be available to us for many years to come as you continue in another facet of the judicial role, as a state trial referee.