Nina Elgo '84 is breaking barriers

 Nina Elgo ’84 is currently the presiding judge over Connecticut’s Child Protection Session, handling child abuse and neglect cases.

Nina Elgo ’84 is currently the presiding judge over Connecticut’s Child Protection Session, handling child abuse and neglect cases.

Nina Elgo ’84 became a pioneer in 2004 when she was appointed a Superior Court judge in Connecticut, the first Asian-Pacific American to reach that position in the state. A litigator for child abuse and neglect cases during her 14 years as an assistant attorney general, Elgo was unprepared for the increased attention her appointment drew but embraced the opportunity to forge a new path.

On May 9, almost exactly nine years after her appointment, the first generation Filipino-American was awarded the prestigious Edwin Archer Randolph Diversity Award by the Lawyers Collaborative for Diversity (LCD) for her accomplishments and contributions to the inclusion and advancement of lawyers of color and/or women lawyers within Connecticut.

The award is named after Edwin Archer Randolph, a Yale Law School graduate who became the state’s first lawyer of color in 1880.

“We judges need to be sensitive and aware of differences not only in what we see in the courtroom, but in how we might ourselves be affected by our own unique set of life experiences, preconceptions and biases,” said Elgo during her acceptance speech. 

A native of Norwich, Conn., Elgo went through a period of self-discovery after graduating from Connecticut College, where she began to realize how much the influence of her parents and her heritage shaped who she was. This included an emotional trip to the Philippines to meet her extended family and a series of temporary jobs that led her to practicing law.

Her path of self-discovery began even earlier, she admitted, during her time at the College. In particular, she recalled a lecture on racism she attended at the behest of Marji Lipshez-Shapiro, the College’s dean of residential life at the time, where she remembered learning that prejudice and prejudging are “facts of life.” 

“What is the ‘truth’ will be interpreted through the lens of life experience,” Elgo stated in her speech. “The danger comes when [prejudice and prejudging] is combined with power; I think that [definition of racism] pretty well defines all kinds of injustices.”

As a judge, Elgo realizes she wields a considerable amount of power; that power is tempered, however, by her open-mindedness and critical thinking skills that she said grew out of her time at Connecticut College.

“The College shaped me and helped me grow both intellectually and in profoundly personal ways,” Elgo stated. “My education played an important role in my work and what I understand about who I am today.”

After a variety of assignments in different divisions, including the Civil Division in Hartford Superior Court, Elgo has returned to her first love. She is currently the presiding judge of the Child Protection Session, a specialized trial docket handling child abuse and neglect cases transferred from around the state.