In Memory of Judge Robert A. Satter

On its website  the CBA announced that Judge Satter died last Monday, January 16th.    I didn’t know Bob well.  I was lucky to know him at all.  That I did was due to Bill Cousins, my first mentor-in-the-law ,who introducted me to his onetime law partner the irrepresible always optimistic George Ritter who invited me, years and years ago, to play tennis on Sunday mornings in Glastonbury with some  interesting people, one of whom was Bob Satter, George’s former law partner.  So I first knew Bob as a tennis player.  I remember him as a cheerful,  smart and determined player.  The other way in which I ‘knew” Bob Satter was as a writer.  The Connecticut Law Book Company published one of Bob’s books, A Path In The Law.  Gene O’leary, who owns Connecticut Law Book Company, asked if I would write a review of Bob’s book.  I can’t think of any reason why Gene would ask me except that I was nearby when the book was published and the price was right.  And so I did.  I enjoyed Bob’s book a great deal for two reasons:  it is well written and it contains fascinating and valuable stories about a life in the law. Also there is some excellent history in A Path In The Law.  My modest tribute to Bob Satter is that book review which can be found here.   I hope it conveys some sense of a wonderful man who led an extraordinary life in the law and in public service.


A Personal Tribute to Ken Mulvey

I was lucky.  I met Ken many years ago when I worked for Bill Cousins doing insurance defense work.  In fact Ken was called in to straighten out a problem that arose in a worker’s compensation case I was defending. The lawyer for the complainant tried to pull a fast one.  Because I was a witness and because my handling of the matter might have been called into question, the carrier hired Ken to address the issue.  I remember being furious at the complainant’s counsel for engaging in what might politely be called “sharp practice.”  As a relatively new lawyer, I was also a bit embarrassed and worried.  I couldn’t have been in better hands.  Ken dealt with complaint’s counsel in about an hour.  He spoke very firmly and professionally, leaving no doubt about what would happen if complainant’s counsel did not immediately reverse course, which he did.  That’s how I met Ken.

Thereafter we saw each in court from time to time when we represented co-defendants.  There never was any question about whether Ken was playing games or looking for an angle.  He was professional, straightforward and trustworthy.  He was an example of what it means to be a really good lawyer.

Eventually we got to talking about things other than our cases.  That’s when I learned about his love of sports – especially Boston College sports – and lacrosse.  We both had sons who played lacrosse.  Every time I saw Ken walking up or down Whitney Avenue to or from court we stopped and had a chat.  One of his sons had gotten into Yale and was on the lacrosse team for a while.  I’ve loved Yale sports since my first football game in the Bowl, which was the last time Yale played Army in the Bowl.  (I think Yale won 13-12).  So I wanted to know everything about his son’s experience.  Ken was glad to tell me. And when he told me his son had decided to stop playing so that he could experience more of what Yale has to offer, I think I was as happy as Ken was.  When we’d talk about his trips up to watch BC football games,  his descriptions were so good I shared in his joy of being a BC fan.

One Saturday when my younger son’s Eli Lacrosse Youth Team (started and long sustained by the wonderful Jon Einhorn)  was playing Guilford, I was totally surprised to see that Ken was the referee.  Referring a lacrosse game requires a lot of running and a lot of on-the-spot judgment.  Ken was a big guy and I wasn’t sure he should be taking on the assignment of running up and down the field with fourth and fifth graders wielding metal sticks.  But he was a terrific ref.  Parents who have watched their kids play competitive sports will know what a compliment that is.  Parents, frankly – and I include myself – are often part of the problem, especially in lacrosse, where cries of “hit him” are often heard.  Ken’s priority was keeping the players safe and teaching them the game.  He was great.  He even managed to point out to several of the parents that yelling “hit him” was not, as a matter of fact, the best encouragement to be giving young players.  Contact in lacrosse is part of the game, but only part of the game.  Focusing on bashing into people takes away from the objective and is more likely to lead to a penalty than anything else.  So Ken helped everyone that day and made it through the entire game looking as if he enjoyed the experience.

But I didn’t know the half of it when it came to Ken’s contributions to the community.  Not until I read his obituary did I begin to see the whole picture.  What a wonderful man!

I deeply regret I didn’t go to see Ken when he was sick.  I knew he had melanoma.  I assumed he would recover.  I didn’t think melanoma was fatal.  I didn’t know the cancer had spread or that cancer goes by the name of the first type of cancer to appear so that even after cancer spreads through a melanoma patient, the cancer is still referred to as melanoma.  I should have gone to visit anyway.  I told myself I didn’t know him that well.  I hadn’t met his wife or children and I wasn’t sure that if I went to visit I wouldn’t be imposing.  I’ve learned that it’s better to go and to risk being politely turned away, then to not go at all.  What matters is the person who is ill, not the feelings of the person considering visiting.

I wish I could have told him how much I enjoyed our chats and how much I admired him.  He always had a smile and took joy in sharing stories about sports and family. When we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, no matter what I had been feeling before we had our short talks, I felt cheerful afterwards.

Ken had wonderful gifts and shared them freely.  I miss him a great deal but am grateful that I knew him at all and that he shared his joy even with me standing in front of Clark’s talking about things we both loved.



“Unconstitutional” eloquence

an excerpt from The Strange Consensus on Obama’s Nobel Address by Glenn Greenwald at

UPDATE II:  One of the most recurring features of the Bush-follower mindset was the claim that the President’s supreme duty — one which the Constitution requires him to swear to — is to “protect the country,” a rhetorical sleight-of-hand suggesting that the Constitution somehow venerates national security above other values.  As 23skiddo points out, Obama featured this exact claim in an even more misleading form yesterday when — in explaining why King and Gandhi were too restrictive for him — he described himself “as a head of statesworn to protect and defend my nation.”

But as this Constitutional scholar surely knows, that is not what he swore to protect and defend when he took his oath of office.  Article II of the Constitutionactually requires that he swear or affirm that he “will to the best of [his] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  That’s a critical difference, now almost always overlooked/ignored/distorted, as it was yesterday.

Note:  The day doesn’t go by that I do not appreciate the President’s efforts.

Connecticut’s Own

Nora Dannehy 

Bob Child

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a 17-year veteran of the Justice Department, will now pursue the questions the inspector general was unable to answer. AP

For an October 6, 2008 story about USA Dannehy see “A Low-Key Player for a Politically Charged Case,” by Joe Palazzolo of LegalTimes.