The late Robert Satter

Hopefully there are Mirror readers who are old enough to remember Robert “Bob” Satter. He should be remembered. He was an extraordinary public intellectual who contributed for decades to the welfare of this state: as a judge, professor, and author; as the leading expert on the legislative process; as a fierce golfer and tennis player; as an active participant in various art and music groups; and a friend and mentor to many. He was my friend, mentor and colleague for decades.

Though he died in January of 2012, at age 92, I think of Bob often in December. It was then that he reflected – kindly, not morosely– on his own mortality. It was his habit to send out many holiday cards each November. As he aged, an increasing number of those cards came back marked “Return to Sender.” He would reflect on all those who had passed on and remind me to hold my friends tight. He lived vibrantly into his 90’s, presiding in his court, writing complex decisions, hosting an author’s symposium, competing vigorously in various sports and poker games, rooting faithfully for the Red Sox, and holding his friends tight.

As a young man Bob earned the nicknames “One Vote Bob” and “Landslide Satter” because he won both his primary and the general election to the General Assembly by just one vote in each race. After serving as an elected representative, he devoted many years to public life, serving as General Counsel at the legislature, as Counsel to the Democratic State Central Committee; and as the author of “Under the Gold Dome” which was the definitive treatise on Connecticut’s legislative process and is still studied by virtually all legislators. For many years, he taught a popular course in the legislative process at UConn law school. He effectively argued Connecticut’s reapportionment case to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking fairer, “one person, one vote” legislative districts in the state. It was my privilege to accompany him to his oral argument.

Plato taught that what’s honored in a country will be cultivated there. For example, we Americans have fantastic basketball players! We also should honor people like Bob Satter, who come around only rarely.

James K. Robertson Jr. is a lawyer and ordained minister.

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