Ellen Ash Peters

Ellen Ash Peters
"It is the case, as lawyers often say, that everything and anything can arrive in a state courthouse. We are courts of general jurisdiction; we resemble utility infielders. On the Appellate Court where I now sit to hear cases, our docket deals with marriage and divorce and children and land disputes and busted drug deals and sexual assaults and homicides. The trial courts are the fact finders and we review the legal conclusions that they bring to bear on the facts they have found."
- Ellen Ash Peters

Induction Category:
Politics, Government & Law

Born: 1930

Inducted: 1994

Town: West Hartford

Ellen Ash Peters’ remarkable legal career was capped by her appointment as a Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1978, the first woman to be named to the court. In 1984, Peters was elevated to Chief Justice, the highest position in the state’s judiciary.

Ellen Ash Peters was born in Berlin, Germany, and immigrated at age nine to the United States with her parents, fleeing Nazi Germany. She entered Hunter College High School in New York and graduated with honors from Swarthmore College and cum laude from Yale Law School in 1954. Peters was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 1957 and to the U.S. District Court for Connecticut in 1965.

Two years after her graduation from Yale Law School, Peters became the first woman lawyer appointed to the faculty, distinguishing herself as an expert and leading scholar of contracts and commercial law, until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1978. She continued to serve as an adjunct professor at Yale until 1984, when she was named Chief Justice. Peters served in that capacity until mandatory retirement in 1996. Upon leaving the bench, Peters’ colleagues hailed her as a visionary leader whose tenure as Chief Justice reflected her commitment to precision, excellence and justice for all. In addition, she was cited for her authorship of important state constitutional decisions, as well as the oversight of 10 new court facilities.

Peters was the first recipient of the Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Medal and has received numerous other honors and awards over the years, including the Judiciary Award of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers' Association, the Yale Law School Distinguished Service Medal and the Hartford College for Women Pioneer Woman Award. In 2002, the National Center for State Courts inducted retired Chief Justice Peters in the Warren E. Burger Society, which honors individuals for extraordinary commitment to the improvement of the administration of justice.

Peters has also served on numerous committees and boards, including The Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (1973-1974). She was appointed to the national board of directors of the Conference of Chief Justices in 1987 and became its first woman president in 1994. An author of many articles and law texts, Peters now serves as a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut Law School. Peters and her husband, Philip Blumberg, reside in West Hartford.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice