BRENDAN CLARK ’21
Associate Justice Richard Palmer ’72 and Senior Associate Justice Christine Vertefeuille ’72 of the Connecticut Supreme Court sat down with the Tripod to reflect on their experiences in the law prior to Wednesday, Oct. 17, when the Court will appear on campus for oral arguments.
Vertefeuille, who was among the first women to be admitted to Trinity in 1969, studied Political Science and English. Vertefeuille reflected on Trinity as an “innovator,” noting that her experiences with a legislative internship were among her fondest recollections. Vertefeuille found her internship “remarkably educational” and “helpful to have seen the legislature in action.” Palmer, who studied Political Science at Trinity and was involved in sports, reflected on Trinity and its faculty as a “community of open-minded people” that were “tolerant of different attitudes and ways of thinking.” Both Palmer and Vertefeuille later graduated from UConn Law School.
The Justices then addressed the Court’s “On-Circuit” program, which is at Trinity this week, and how it seeks to educate students about the legal process. Palmer observed that, while students are often “not apt to come to the Court itself and hear arguments,” despite its location only several minutes from Trinity’s campus, the On-Circuit program gives them a chance to “learn about the appellate process” in-person and have their questions answered.
The program will include a question and answer segment after each argument with the litigators, which Vertefeuille added is a “reflection of the notion of lawyers as educators to a certain extent.” The cases as part of the program often encompass topics that are of particular interest to students: one of this year’s concerns free speech on a college campus and another case in the past concerned the “admissibility of evidence from a Facebook post,” Palmer added.
The Justices also offered their thoughts on the attributes of what distinguishes good attorneys from great attorneys, with Vertefeuille adding that excellent attorneys are “respectful to the court” and always “attentive listeners to the questions of the justices.” Palmer stated that the best attorneys are also “candid with the Court when they do not know the answers to legal questions.” Both Justices concluded that appellate argument is as much about listening as arguing. With their return to their alma matter, both expressed their excitement about returning, adding that it is a “unique opportunity” and that they look forward to sharing the important work of the Judiciary with current Trinity students.
BRENDAN CLARK ’21