TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 069:160, Robert Satter Collection, 1926-1993
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Morin.
Copyright © 2016 by the Connecticut State Library
Robert "Bob" Satter was born on August 19, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the oldest of six children to Henry and Patty Satter. The Satter family later moved to Cranston, New Jersey, where he grew up during the Great Depression. As a young man, Satter attended Rutgers University (then known as Rutgers College), graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1941. He later went on to earn a law degree from Columbia University in 1947. During World War II, he joined the Navy, serving as a gunnery officer on battleships in the Pacific. In 1946, Satter married Ruth Lyttle, who through his encouragement became a noted botanist. The couple had four children: Richard "Dick," Jane, Mimi, and Shoshana "Susan." They were married for 42 years, until Ruth died of leukemia in 1989. In 1993, Satter married Phyllis Johnson. He predeceased her, succumbing to primary lateral sclerosis on January 16, 2012 at the age of 92.
Satter had a long and distinguished legal, political, legislative, and judicial career in Connecticut: he was a prominent Hartford lawyer, a member of the state House of Representatives, a general counsel to Democratic Party legislators, and a Superior Court Judge. He wrote four books: Doing Justice: A Trial Judge at Work (1990), The Path in the Law (1996), The Furniture of My Mind: Collected Essays (1999), and Under the Gold Dome: An Insider's Look at the Connecticut Legislature (2004). He enjoyed camping, bicycling, organizing community groups, and playing tennis, competing in the sport into his 80s.
Satter began his law career in New York City, but soon after relocated with his family to Hartford, Connecticut in order to start a law partnership with fellow Rutgers alumnus George Ritter. Jon O. Newman later joined the firm as a partner, before going on to become a U.S. Federal Judge whose noteworthy decision striking down Connecticut's abortion statute in Abele v. Markle preceded the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on Roe v. Wade. Satter practiced in a wide variety of areas, including personal injury, public offerings, commercial real estate, criminal law, family law, estate planning, zoning, labor law, drafting legislation, and trial work ranging from the Court of Common Pleas to the U.S. Supreme Court. He had a strong commitment to public service and took special pride in his work on behalf of labor unions and the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.
Political and Legislative Career
A Roosevelt Democrat who believed that government should act to help people in need, Satter was inspired to go into politics by two-time Democratic presidential nominee, Adlai Stevenson, and volunteered for Stevenson's first presidential campaign in 1952. In 1958, Satter ran for a General Assembly Seat from Newington, and was elected to the House of Representatives in the Ribicoff landslide. He lost the seat in 1960. In 1962, he won the Democratic primary for the seat by one vote over fellow lawyer Waldemar Lach, and also carried the general election by one vote over Republican Robert Peyton. This earned him the nickname "Landslide" Satter. An advocate of racial equality, Satter introduced the first state legislation prohibiting discrimination in private housing. While he did not accomplish his efforts to end the death penalty, he did succeed in passing a bill that prohibited life sentences without parole and a measure that required separate hearings on guilt and sentencing in capital cases. He ultimately lost his seat in 1966. From 1967 to 1975, Satter served as the counsel to Connecticut's Democratic Party, drafting bills at the Legislature. He taught a course about legislative process at the University of Connecticut School of Law for 27 years.
In 1975, Satter was appointed as state judge. Over the course of his 36-year career in the Superior Court, he heard cases on a wide variety of matters, including criminal, zoning, permit, employment termination, custody disputes, and foreclosures. Satter was among the initial judges asked to preside in the state's first court devoted to landlord-tenant matters, which helped put an end to many illegal evictions. After his state-mandated retirement at age 70, he continued serving on the bench as a judge referee until October 6, 2011.
The collection was arranged in three series which reflect Robert Satter's personal, legal, political, legislative, and judicial career in Connecticut. The series include Personal and Political Papers, Photographs, and Scrapbooks.
Series 1. Personal and Political Papers, 1955-1993, consists of clippings pertaining to Robert Satter's political, legislative, and judicial career; personal and business correspondence; and a book autographed by academic, educator, and political appointee Joseph Duffey.
Series 2. Photographs, 1963-1968, undated, contains various head shots of Robert Satter, two candid shots of Robert Satter with colleagues, and a portrait of the Connecticut General Assembly, Committee on Judicial and Governmental Functions, 1963-1964.
Series 3. Scrapbooks, 1926-1993, undated, includes four scrapbooks chronicling Satter's volunteer work on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1952; Satter's campaign for a General Assembly Seat from Newington in 1958; various judicial rulings during his career as Superior Court Judge; and his published writings about a variety of subjects ranging from his legal, political, and judicial career to his travel and personal interests.
Series 1. Personal and Political Papers, 1955-1993
Series 2. Photographs, 1963-1968, undated
Series 3. Scrapbooks, 1926-1993, undated
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
Connecticut -- Politics and government -- 1951-
Connecticut. General Assembly
Judges -- Connecticut
Lawyers -- Connecticut
Legislators -- Connecticut
Political campaigns -- Connecticut -- History -- 20th century
Duffey, Joseph D. (Joseph Daniel), 1932-
Newman, Jon O. (Jon Ormond)
Satter, Robert, 1919-2012
Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
The collection was donated by Phyllis Satter to the Connecticut State Library on June 7, 2012.
Sarah Morin, a student intern from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College (Boston, MA), processed the collection in February-April, 2016.
Condon, Tom, "Ex-legislator Recalls Winning by a Whisker," The Hartford Courant, November 15, 1994, sec. CONNECTICUT, p. A3.
Goode, Steven, "Governor Praises Longtime Judge, Former Lawmaker: Satter Dies at 92," The Hartford Courant, January 16, 2012, sec. CTNOW, p. B1.
Hamilton, Anne M., "A Compassionate, Liberal Legal Mind," The Hartford Courant, February 5, 2012, sec. CTNOW, p. B2.
Hathaway, William, "Fair-housing Laws Fall Short of Remedy: Activists Assess Measure After 25 Years," The Hartford Courant, May 9, 1993, sec. MAIN (A), p. A1.
Journal Inquirer Staff, "Judge Robert Satter, Author and Teacher, Dies," Journal Inquirer, January 16, 2012, p. 1.
Satter, Robert, "Nostalgia in a Smoke-Filled Room," The New York Times, August 5, 1979, sec. CN, p. 20.
For Connecticut Lawyers. In Memory of Judge Robert A. Satter
The Hartford Courant. Satter, Robert: Obituary
New York Law School Law Review. Jon O. Newman and the Abortion Decisions: A Remarkable First Year