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
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
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
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
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.