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Former Justice Ellen Ash Peters ’54 Honored at Last Sitting

The Honorable Ellen Ash Peters ’54, former Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, presided over her final court session last month. She spent 22 years on the Supreme Court, including 12 in the highest position in the state judiciary, before transitioning to the Connecticut Appellate Court as a judge trial referee in 2000.

Over the course of a momentous career, Justice Peters has been the first woman tenured professor at Yale Law School, the first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the first woman Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and the first woman president of the Conference of Chief Justices.

At Justice Peters’ last session with the Appellate Court on May 20, Chief Judge Alexandra D. Dipentima spoke with affection about the Justice’s influence and skill.

“[Justice Peters] has made her mark in her clear analytical opinions, that are, among other things, a pleasure to read,” Judge Dipentima said. “We all wish we could write that opening paragraph the way she does. Her clarity of thought and word, the hours of wise counsel she gives whenever one of us seeks it, the invaluable instruction she gives each year to our incoming law clerks, have indeed made us a better court.”

Justice Peters used the opportunity to remember the late Connecticut Governor Ella Grasso, who appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1978, paving the way for future women to sit on the bench.

She also paused to thank her judicial colleagues who contributed to her ever-expanding understanding of the nature of justice and her responsibility to its principles. “We not only are educated by the profession, and the lawyers who appear before us, but each other’s life experiences,” Justice Peters said, “which we bring to bear in an effort to serve the cause of justice to the very best of our ability.

Yale awarded Justice Peters the Doctor of Laws honorary degree in 1985, shortly following her appointment as Chief Justice.