Connecticut College Magazine · Summer 2004

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A Matter of Honor

A Matter of Honor
Connecticut Superior Court judges (from left) Lynda Munro ’76, Robin Wilson ’82 and Nina Elgo ’84.

Three alumni judges wield the gavel in Connecticut Superior Court


Listening closely, thinking carefully, making sure that everyone receives respect and fair treatment — that is the daily work of Nina Elgo ’84, Robin Wilson ’82 and Lynda Batter Munro ’76.

All are judges on the Connecticut Superior Court; all love their work, and all say that Connecticut College prepared them well for that work, not only by stretching their minds but also by shaping their ideas about what is fair, just and right.
“The law and the legal system are about resolving conflicts fairly,” says Nina Elgo, who received her J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center. “You’re dealing with people’s lives. You’re always testing the law, attempting to clarify how it was meant to be applied to the individuals and the circumstances before you.” A judge must see the bigger picture, she says, and must exercise common sense along with sound legal thinking.

Until she was named to the court this past spring, Elgo was an attorney in the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, handling cases of child abuse and neglect. Those cases, which implicated many other areas of the law, provided a good background for her current assignment, hearing criminal cases in Hartford. She lives in West Hartford with her husband and their daughter.

At CC, where she was a government major, she gained not only critical thinking skills but also an understanding of her own values. “It’s not only intellectual skills that matter; it’s character, and the quality of your relationships with others. It matters so much that you treat everyone with respect.”

As a new judge, she finds it “satisfying and stimulating” to learn from experienced colleagues of many different backgrounds and specialties who are generous with their time and expertise. She also greatly appreciates the education program for judges, which is headed by Munro.

For Robin Wilson, “allowing people to have their say in court” is the most important part of her job. “I may be tough,” she says, “but I’m fair. I listen very carefully.”
She has a master’s of law degree (L.L.M.) from New York University as well as a J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law. After working as an assistant attorney general for the Connecticut Attorney General’s office for eight years, she was appointed a workers’ compensation commissioner by Governor Lowell P. Weicker in 1994. In 2003, she was named to the court (and promptly became another eager participant in the court education program). She lives in New Haven, where she grew up, and is assigned to the Norwalk court.

“I’m hearing cases in different areas of the law,” she says, adding that she often finds herself saying, “Oh, I can’t wait to research that issue.”
She majored in government at CC, served on the Judiciary Board, and is guided by a particular J-Board experience. “I carry that with me to this day,” she says. “We had to make a decision to expel a student — a popular student. It was an unpopular decision.” She learned: “You have to listen to both sides to come to a decision that needs to be made. A fair and just decision is not always a popular one.”

“Conn prepares you with analytical skills,” she adds. “You can live with a decision, knowing you’ve done your best.”

Munro, who entered private practice after graduating from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, has served on the court since 1994 — and still feels that “sitting in judgment of people is a pretty fearsome responsibility.” A member of the CC Alumni Board of Directors, she serves in New Haven and lives in Bethany with her husband and their daughter.

“To treat people fairly — that’s the good and proper ideal,” she says. People who come before a judge must feel “that whatever their problems, they were listened to and adjudicated fairly.” Some problems, she adds, arise from human nature; others are intellectually complicated. To ably handle both, a judge needs to be adaptable.
As education chair of the Judicial Branch, she develops and supervises continuing education programs for the trial court bench. “Superior Court judges in Connecticut must have knowledge in all areas of the law,” she notes, so the program helps judges to learn about any area that may initially be unfamiliar, or to explore some area in depth. “There’s an art to judging; we offer opportunities for judges to grow.”

Munro, who majored in history and American studies, says that her liberal arts education gave her “the tools to explore whatever comes along.” Important to her growth, she says, was “the sense, at Conn, that every person has a responsibility to the whole community. With its honor code, and its system of mutual respect, Conn was a good foundation” for the work of the court.

— Carolyn Battista


Connecticut College Magazine

 
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