Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 194, page(s) 811-821

CHIEF JUSTICE FRANCIS M. McDONALD, JR.

REMARKS ON THE OCCASION OF THE RETIREMENT OF CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN A. SPEZIALE

During the opening of proceedings in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 6, 1984, the following remarks were made on the occasion of the retirement of Chief Justice John A. Speziale, effective November 21, 1984.

CHIEF JUSTICE SPEZIALE: At this time I'd like to call upon Father Michael S. Galasso, Pastor of Saint Peter's Roman Catholic Church of Hartford to give an opening prayer. Father Galasso.

FATHER GALASSO: Let us pray. Almighty Father, we call into session this high Court of the land and seek your bless¬ing upon them today. Allow all deliberations to be conducted with prudence. Guide these Justices so that their decisions reflect your will for the common good of your people. Amen.

CHIEF JUSTICE SPEZIALE: I'd like to recognize Justice Peters at this time.

JUSTICE PETERS: This is a special occasion because today is the last session of this Court over which Chief Justice Speziale will preside. And therefore, instead of moving immediately to our Motions Calendar, I'm going to say a few words about the work of Chief Justice Speziale on this Court and then Justice Healey will say a few words about the remainder of Chief Justice Speziale's distinguished judicial career. Thereafter Attorney Raymond Beckwith, the Presi¬dent of the Connecticut Bar Association, will say a few words on behalf of the bar.

This Court has often said to counsel appearing for oral argument before us that we must consider the matters that come before us on the record. In that tradition, I want to examine what the record shows to be the achievements of Chief Justice John A. Speziale. And although officially we resist the temptation to indulge in hyperbole, it is impossi¬ble to describe that record without noting at the outset that it is simply astonishing.

To begin with, the record reflects that Justice Speziale, as Associate Justice and as Chief Justice, has participated over seven and a half years in the deliberations and disposition of five hundred and ninety-one cases that were argued in full to this Court. That number does not include hundreds more Motions and Petitions for Certification. The record further discloses that Chief Justice Speziale has written one hundred and forty-five opinions, almost all for the majority, although he has not hesitated to dissent or to concur when the occasion has seemed to require that action. Let me allude briefly to some of those opinions, for they have, without question, changed the legal landscape of the State of Connecticut.

John Speziale's keen sense of justice is manifest in his opinions on the law of criminal procedure. An early dissenting opinion exposed problems with our system of plea bargaining. Another major opinion addressed the integrity of jury deliberations. Other cases in the criminal law area dealt carefully with the sensitive issues that surround the validity of confessions and the legality of searches.

But justice is, of course, not confined to the proper reso¬lution of questions of criminal law. And so John Speziale wrote during his time on the Court opinions: guaranteeing a debtor a right to a fair hearing before his property could be taken by foreclosure; assuring electors that absentee bal¬lots would be fairly administered; and promising litigants in family disputes that they would have a full judicial con¬sideration of their personal and property rights. Other land¬mark cases gave notice of his and the Court's commitment to the principles of case flow management. Finally, during the last Court year the Chief Justice led the Court to new formulations of the conflicting rights of privacy and the press and of the role of the legislature and the judiciary in the impeachment process.

This is a record of significant achievement which all of us on the bench aspire to emulate. It reflects the understand¬ing that Supreme Courts in a democratic society have a dual role – the adjudication of legal disputes and the development of legal rules. It is the latter role, the development of legal rules, that is essential to the sound growth of a reasoned legal system. It is always possible, and sometimes wise, to decide no more than how a controversy is to be resolved, to focus on the particularities of special circumstances rather than on the generality of an overall problem. But the judi¬cial opinions which give us guidance for the future are those which, like those of John Speziale, search for principles, artic¬ulate guidelines, and thus confront the underlying issues. Such opinions exemplify what Oliver Wendell Holmes recog¬nized one hundred years ago as the strength of the common law – its responsiveness to the felt necessities of the times, to prevalent moral and political theories and to sound intui¬tions about the just demands of public policy.

John Speziale's record, however, as you all know, encom¬passes many accomplishments in addition to his stellar rec¬ord on the bench. As Chief Court Administrator and then as head of the Judicial Department the Chief Justice, with the aid of the legislative and executive branches with whom he developed excellent rapport, has worked tirelessly and effectively to transform the judicial system in Connecticut. Let me recite only a few of the highlights. The number of trial judges has been substantially increased and, in addi¬tion, we now have a fine Appellate Court. The salaries of judges have been improved in order to attract and to retain able lawyers for the judiciary. Judges have better support services with six new court houses on line or almost com¬pleted and a pool of law clerks to assist in legal research. The quality of judicial performance has been enhanced by expanded educational programs and by systematic perform¬ance review. The use of attorney trial referees has freed judi¬cial time for the performance of those judicial functions which cannot be delegated to others.

I do not mean to suggest that the millennium has come. There is still a great deal to be done to ready our judicial system for the challenges of the next century, which is almost upon us. But we could not begin to think intelligently about how to plan for the year two thousand or two thou¬sand and one without the foundation that the Chief Justice has built. That foundation reflects not only leadership and dedication and energy, but a vision that we all share, a vision that Connecticut wants to have and can have a judicial sys¬tem second to none.

And so on behalf of the Court let me close by saying to John Speziale, we appreciate all that you have done for us. We admire your perseverance and your perceptive pursuit of the goals of judicial excellence. Finally, but by no means least, we treasure the opportunities we have had to work with you. With great affection we express to you our grati¬tude for your long years of public service and wish you a rewarding and fulfilling career at the bar.

Justice Healey.

JUSTICE HEALEY: Thank you, Justice Peters. Chief Justice Speziale, members of the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court, the judiciary, members of the bar and guests. I under¬stand that I have about five minutes to discuss the Chief Justice's State judicial career prior to the time he became Chief Court Administrator. That time is about par for the course on Motion Day in this Court. However, if anyone is trying to rush me I'm reminded that someone said don't rush me because I have only one other speed and that's slower.

There are some things that deserve to be said briefly. This occasion is not one of them. In November, 1961, I journeyed out to Torrington with another Judge to be present at the swearing-in of John A. Speziale as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. I must confess that I did not think that at that time many of those present believed that they were witnessing the induction of a man who would become succes¬sively and successfully Chief Judge of the Superior Court, Chief Court Administrator, and finally Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said there is properly no his¬tory, but only biography. And in that vein I look briefly along with you at the judicial career of the Chief Justice from 1961, as a State Trial Judge, until he became Chief Court Administrator in 1977.

He came to the bench molded by humble beginnings, in the best American tradition; schooled in the humanities and in the law; and forged in the crucible of an active law prac¬tice, meaningful political experience and respectable com¬munity service.

Early on his work in the judicial system disclosed that he worked hard, that he worked long hours, and significantly ¬– that he worked very effectively. It became abundantly clear that he himself firmly believed that proper preparation pre¬vents poor performance and that he expected the profession to realize that and to follow the same rule. All his writings as a trial Judge were thorough in their preparation, clear in their exposition and decisive in their tone. His courtroom demeanor was always dignified and appropriate, his rulings were resolute and clear, and his insight into the problems of counsel and their clients were comprehensive and almost invariably on target. He demonstrated throughout an uncanny ability in the resolution of contested matters, this perhaps being most evident to the bench and bar in his great success in the disposition of jury cases, often very complex cases and often involving a number of lawyers. Whatever assignment he was given he executed notably. All these soon became apparent to those people in charge. Almost from the beginning, therefore, he often found himself designated as the presiding Judge wherever he was assigned. He produced and he expected, over his days as a trial Judge, those with whom he was assigned to do the same thing. He never let the fact that you cannot do all that you want to do keep you from doing what you can do.

Throughout these years, John Speziale has certainly proved the truth of the statement that a person shows what he is by what he does with what he has.

He recognized that to the judicial office to which much is given, much is also required. Accordingly, his talents as a trial Judge, his interest and participation were not confined to his work in the courtroom or chambers. They also included Court administration, judicial education, judicial perform¬ance, and the like, a few of the harbingers of the impact that he was to have on the judicial system. This was founded, I feel, on his goal – the determination to improve the delivery of justice to the people of this State, a mission that has not waned, as you know, but has continually increased over his judicial life. His impatience with what he perceived to be roadblocks to this goal was evident. He realized that success cannot be without an occasional failure. But for him any occasional failure was merely more education. John Speziale was a man on the move who recognized the problems to be overcome, but he never accepted any setback nor yielded to the enormity of any problem.

The portents were unmistakable. When, in passage of time, he became Chief Judge of the Superior Court and then the Chief Court Administrator the lines were drawn and any roadblock that stood in the way of improving the delivery of justice to the people of this State would be subject to a frontal attack. Fueling this struggle with an unmistakable singleness of purpose, a strategic marshalling of all the resources available, and a burning zeal to serve, he pressed toward this goal. We all know what was accomplished under his leadership and time demands that I leave the results to someone else to chronicle fully on another day.

These fleeting encomia do not mete out the full measure of credit due to the Chief Justice for his accomplishments. But from 1961 on there was no question that with each successive year as a trial Judge this man, who drove himself relentlessly, who learned more what the system was, and who recommended from his evolving experience what it should be, would impact deeply on our judicial system. When the day arrived upon which he became Chief Court Admin¬istrator he was ready; his compass was set; and his imperatives were determined. You know what happened thereafter.

I close these remarks with a short quotation that I deem particularly appropriate. Some years ago Justice Felix Frankfurter, in an article in the New York Times Magazine, was describing a Chief Justice that he knew and he said, "He didn't assume his position, he fulfilled it." That is precisely what John Speziale has done as Chief Judge of the Superior Court, Chief Court Administrator and as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

JUSTICE PETERS: Mr. Beckwith.

MR. BECKWITH: May it please the Court, Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court, Judges of the Appellate Court, Judges of the Superior Court, members of the bar, ladies and gentlemen. I am deeply honored to represent the Connecticut Bar Association on this, the last day on which the Chief Justice will preside as a member of this Court. To the Chief Justice and to his wife we extend our very best wishes and high expectations for success and happiness in this newest of the Chief Justice's endeavors.

I want to speak from a slightly different position than Jus¬tice Peters and Justice Healey in that I want to take a few minutes to outline what Chief Justice Speziale has meant to the members of the organized bar and what he has done with respect to the organized bar.

I have known every Chief Justice of this State since the early 1950s and I have known some of them as brilliant law¬yers; I have known others as keen administrators. But I have never known a Chief Justice who so sincerely devoted him¬self to a harmonious relationship between the bench and the bar for the benefit of the public. He made the bar a part of the judicial system. He was ever mindful of the fact that under our system the Court has its function and the bar has its function and that the two have to work together in har¬mony in order to accomplish the result of a fair administra¬tion of justice. In appropriate matters he sought our advice and counsel. He also sought and promoted firm, substantial relationships between the bench and the bar. He was always ready to come and speak to us on some new rule or a new development or something of value and interest to the bar because he knew that the better informed the bar, the bet¬ter the public was served.

He regarded the bar, I think, as part of a whole which was designed to bring justice to our citizens. One has only to look at the various matters that Justice Peters and Justice Healey have commented upon to make that point abundantly clear.

In one of the most recent matters in which the Chief Justice was involved, namely the lawyer-referee program, he sought the cooperation of the bar in a program which, in my view, as I see it from Fairfield County, has been an enormous success. We are deeply appreciative of the fact that he first created the program and, secondly, that he involved the bar in the implementation of the program. There have been several thousand cases, as I understand it, that have been disposed of by this program, in which I have had the honor to participate.

Most recently the problem under discussion has been that of Court delay, a problem to which the Chief Justice has very recently applied himself. He has created a committee which will deal with various aspects of the rules, as I understand it, and some other matters in connection therewith. But he did more than that. Realizing that that is not just a judicial matter, it’s a matter which involves the entire administration of justice, he has brought onto a committee four members of the bar to assist the judiciary in dealing with this particular problem. This has always been Chief Justice Speziale’s approach. He has always cooperated in every way that he could; he has helped us in every way that he could; he has always been available to us, to help us when we properly needed his help. We shall miss him. We do wish him all the very best in his new venture.

I want to read something which was written by me, not by a Judge. This appears in the Connecticut Lawyer and I said this, “Chief Justice Speziale fully recognized the position of lawyers in our judicial system and frequently called upon the organized bar to assist in various projects. He sought the advice of the bar most recently on such matters as establishment and rules for the Appellate Court, judicial evaluation of Judges and control of Court dockets. Chief Justice Speziale is a towering figure in the history of Connecticut law and his efforts to bring the law to the people of the State as efficiently and expeditiously as possible will not soon be forgotten.”

Chief Justice, we are proud to have been associated with you and we wish you all the best of luck. Thank you very much.

CHIEF JUSTICE SPEZIALE: At this time I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Justice Peters, Justice Healey, and Attorney Beckwith for their very kind and considerate remarks.

Words alone cannot adequately express and describe the feelings that I have in my heart at this time.

On September 12th of this year, after first informing Governor O'Neill and the members of the Supreme Court, I announced that I was retiring as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, effective November 21, 1984, to return to the private sector.

Because our judicial process requires that I cannot partic¬ipate in any Supreme Court decision rendered after that date, today is the final day that I will preside in this court¬room as Chief Justice of our Supreme Court.

I'm sure you appreciate that my decision to retire as Chief Justice was made only after much soul-searching and many long discussions with my wife and family. It has become apparent to me that while I am still young enough and healthy enough to continue, the time has come to do other things where the pressures and responsibilities are not as demanding and where I may fulfill my desire to be able to better enjoy both my family and the world around me.

As you know, I've decided to return to the active practice of law. My practice will be primarily in the Hartford area, which I know so well and enjoy so much.

This decision, to accept a new and exciting challenge, has not been an easy one. However, I look back upon my career in public service with satisfaction and a strong sense of accomplishment. For most of my adult life I have served in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of our State government. During the last quarter of a century, I have worked in a wide range of judicial capacities where every aspect of my life has been devoted to my judicial responsibili¬ties. I believe I have done it all and it is now time to move on.

It is so hard to believe that it was three years ago, three years to this very day, almost to this very hour, right here in this courtroom that I received the oath of office as Chief Justice from Governor O'Neill. Many of you who are here today were here then when I said that for me the American dream had indeed become a reality. This is as true now as it was then, even though I have decided to move on to other challenges. And I shall be forever grateful for the honor and trust which was placed in me in all of the judicial positions which I have held.

We have accomplished much in the past three years. We have been more accessible, more open, both in terms of what we do and how we do it; and I believe that the people of Con¬necticut appreciate that openness. The public is aware that the Judges and employees of the judicial branch have never worked harder, nor have they ever been more productive.

Many of our accomplishments would not have been possi¬ble without the support of many individuals in both the executive and the legislative branches, who in spite of difficult financial times did recognize the very real needs and priorities of the judicial branch. I have found that communi¬cation and cooperation among our three branches of govern¬ment are not only desirable but also vital in serving the best interests of the citizens of our State. During my tenure as Chief Court Administrator and as Chief Justice this relation¬ship has been developed and nurtured.

To Governor O'Neill and his advisors, also to the leaders and members of the General Assembly, especially those on the judiciary and appropriations committees, go my unending gratitude and sincere thanks for their cooperation, sup¬port and understanding.

To the Supreme Court staff, the Clerk's Office, the Staff Attorney's Office, the Reporter of Judicial Decisions' Office, the law clerks and to all our secretaries goes my heartfelt appreciation for their loyalty and hard work. To our out¬standing administrative staff and to all the employees of the judicial branch I extend my sincere thanks for their commit¬ment to justice and accomplishment. Yes, we have made a great team together during some very difficult times; and although it will be impossible for me to thank them all individually I want them to know that I pray that God will bless them. I know that I shall miss them so very much.

To the members of the bar represented today by the Presi¬dent of the Connecticut Bar Association, Attorney Raymond W. Beckwith, I commend them for their cooperation and sup¬port in our joint efforts to improve our judicial system. In recent years the bar has played an increasingly major role, both in the movement of cases and in attempts to solve the many problems which face us. Their involvement has given birth to a new cooperative effort from which our judicial sys¬tem has benefited and will continue to benefit greatly.

I want to thank all of the Judges of the Superior Court and the Judges of our new Appellate Court for their hard work and dedication. The demands on them have been unprecedented, but they have given much more than was expected and we have met our many grave challenges.

To my colleagues on the Supreme Court, I ask God's bless¬ing, that he give you all the strength and the courage to decide the many difficult problems which you face each and every day.

Only those who are called upon to serve in this awesome responsibility can really know the total commitment which is required of the Justices of the Supreme Court. I've been blessed with a Supreme Court which consists of dedicated, knowledgeable, and hard working Justices. To them and to the Judges of the Superior Court who have been called upon to sit as members of this Court, I extend my thanks and appreciation. I have such great respect for this Court's inde¬pendence, its integrity, its wisdom, and its compassion. We know the many winds of social change which swirl around us, yet this Court has always been a steadying influence, bending to change only when change is necessary and just, not when it is expedient.

I believe that the bar has a critical role to play in the judi¬cial affairs of our State. That is why, although I will be leav¬ing the public sector, I plan to remain active as a private citizen in all aspects of the legal profession which I love and respect. I plan to continue in my lifelong efforts to fight for improvements in the administration of justice for all the peo¬ple of this great State.

As I stated in my resignation letter to the Governor, "since November 23rd, 1961, I have had the high honor to serve the people of the State of Connecticut as a member of their judiciary. My many fond memories and rewarding experi¬ences during those twenty-three years will remain with me for the rest of my life."

And in his gracious letter to me, Governor O'Neill indi¬cated that our leadership "has provided Connecticut with renewed confidence in the judicial process." I sincerely hope that this is a true reflection of the attitude of the people of our beloved State; and if it is, then no individual or judicial administration can leave a greater legacy. These two letters sum up, I believe, what we have tried to do and what we have done. Mr. Clerk, I would ask that both these letters be included as part of the record of these proceedings.

As I attempt to express my feelings today I can only con¬clude with three very humble statements: I shall always love this room. I shall always love this Court. And I shall always cherish the years that with God's help we have been able to spend together.

At this time if you would all please rise with me: And now, after almost a quarter of a century of proud judicial service to the people of the State of Connecticut, it is with a heavy heart I say for the last time, Mr. Sheriff, you may open Court.

The following letters were made part of the official record of the proceedings.

September 18, 1984

Dear Governor O'Neill:

It is with mixed emotions that I submit to you my resig¬nation as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a Judge of the Superior Court, effective November 21, 1984, at 12:01 a.m. This resignation is in accordance with the Con¬necticut General Statutes, Section 51-45, Section 51-50a, and Section 51-50, as amended by Public Act 84-399.

Since November 23, 1961, I have had the high honor to serve the people of the State of Connecticut as a member of their judiciary. My many fond memories and reward¬ing experiences during those twenty-three years will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Please accept my gratitude for your faith and confidence in naming me to the high office of Chief Justice.

As a private citizen, I plan to continue my lifelong efforts to seek improvements in the administration of justice. If I can be of future service to you and the people of the State of Connecticut, please do not hesitate to call upon me.

Sincerely yours,
JOHN A. SPEZIALE
Chief Justice

__________________________

September 26, 1984

Dear Mr. Chief Justice:

This will acknowledge your September 18, 1984, letter informing me of your decision to resign as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a Judge of the Superior Court, effective November 21, 1984, at 12:01 a.m. I accept your resignation with great regret.

Your twenty-three years as a member of the Judiciary have be

en highlighted by exemplary dedication to the peo¬ple of Connecticut. They have been served well by you and that is an achievement of which you can be proud.

As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, you have served with distinction in a difficult period. Indeed your leader¬ship has provided Connecticut with renewed confidence in the judicial process.

I commend you for your record of public service to the State of Connecticut

My very best wishes to you and your family in the future.

Sincerely,
WILLIAM A. O’NEILL
Governor

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