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Offers remembrance of Howard Moraghan

Published 4:37 pm, Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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I first met Howard Moraghan in the fall of 1969.

I was applying for a position in the law firm of Bradbury & Moraghan. Harry Bradbury was a 70-year-old judge of probate and Howard was a 39-year-old prosecutor for the 3rd Circuit Court in New Milford.

Fortunately, I was hired and commenced work on Dec. 1, 1969.

Unfortunately, Howard was appointed to the bench of the Superior Court several weeks later, and little did I realize what this meant. I was very happy with three eviction and four boundary line dispute cases.

Then, Howard was sworn in on Jan. 1, 1970 and I inherited a full practice, including cases ready for trial. As I have told people, it was certainly an interesting way to break into the practice of law.

Howard was very gracious in helping me survive over the next two years. He would come in evenings and review files with me.

Certainly no one who knew Howard well would ever accuse him of being wimpy. Even the correspondence in his files occasionally had smoke coming out of them.

Attorneys on the other side of his cases enjoyed pummeling me to get even for perceived pain inflicted on them by Howard.

As a prosecutor, he was equally intransigent. Not afraid to try a case, he could inflict dread and fear in those attorneys who were.

George Kilberg, a good friend of Howard and me, once told me he lost so many commission claims where Howard represented the other side that he ended having Howard represent him instead.

One case I remember well and have often retold as an example of how Howard judged.

It was a Friday, probably in the late 1970s. Connecticut had just authorized conditional sentencing. I was in the courtroom in New Milford Town Hall chatting with Detective Bob Ash and not really paying too much attention.

Fridays back then were for misdemeanors and motor vehicle cases. A young gentleman in scruffy clothes appeared before Howard representing himself. As I recall, he was charged with operating a vehicle while his license was suspended for the third time.

Howard asked him several questions to which he responded either "yeah" or "nay."

Finally Howard asked if he had anything else to say to which he responded, "nay." Howard then said, "I hereby sentence you to one year in the Litchfield County Correctional Institute."

The young man's knees buckled. Detective Ash and I looked at each other in shock. The courtroom was in total silence. Detective Ash took the young man into custody and started to remove him from the courtroom.

Howard waited until they reached the rear door, at which time Howard said, "suspended." The young man then returned to the bench where Howard imposed a conditional sentence that, if he violated any motor vehicle laws of the state of Connecticut in the next two years, he would serve that year in jail.

Let me tell you, that was one young man who knew he was in court that day.

Howard had a reputation in the profession of being a hard ... which he certainly was.

Outside of the profession he was a loving husband to his first wife, Nancy, who passed away at a very young age, and of course to his second wife, Linda. He was also a father of three boys, all of whom have led successful lives. He also had a great sense of humor, none more evidenced than by the famous "Dog" matter.

Howard always had his dog in chambers with him. A female lawyer accused Howard's dog of deliberatively performing lewd and lascivious behavior against her person.

Shortly after the matter happened, I was in court in Danbury and stopped in Howard's chambers, where he was with his dog and sporting a large tie with a picture of a dog on it.

Howard was a good tough lawyer and a good tough hanging judge. But maybe more important, he was a good and loyal member of our community for more than half a century. He was a good friend to many and we will all miss him.

Thankfully, I had a chance to talk to Howard about a month ago.

We mused about where the last 40-plus years had gone and revisited some of our old memories. I am thankful for that last chat.

Terry Pellegrini is an attorney in New Milford and a resident of Kent.