Retired Connecticut Supreme Court Justice David Borden died on Sunday at age 79. He was an advocate for a more transparent judiciary, juvenile justice reform, and a proponent for changing the way police conduct criminal identification lineups.
Although Borden was retired, he was still involved with changing sentencing laws and juvenile justice reform. He died after a battle with cancer, according to a judicial branch spokeswoman.
“Justice Borden believed deeply in the rule of law, open and transparent courts, and access to justice for all,” Chief Justice Chase Rogers said in a statement. “To that end, he left indelible prints wherever he served during his remarkable judicial career. No legal issue was too challenging for him, and he never lost sight of the importance of a case to an individual party.”
Borden, who was nominated to the state Supreme Court in 1990 by the late-Gov. William A. O’Neill, served for a brief year as acting chief justice. He retired from the state’s highest court in 2007, but continued to serve as a judge trial referee on the Appellate Court.
During his tenure as acting chief justice, Borden formed a task force to examine ways to make the Judicial Branch more open and transparent. The task force was created after retiring Chief Justice William “Tocco” Sullivan withheld an opinion that would have allowed clerks to withhold court docket information from the public. Borden refusedto uphold the decision when he became acting chief justice in the wake of Sullivan’s retirement scandal. Sullivan withheld the decision to help elevate his friend, Justice Peter Zarella, to the position.
As recently as 2014, Borden was at the state Capitol lobbying lawmakers in the final days of the session to approve legislation reforming the state’s juvenile justice laws to give a chance at parole to juvenile offenders serving lengthy prison terms. He ultimately succeeded and the legislation was signed into law in 2015.
Prior to serving on the state Supreme Court, Borden started his career as a Hartford attorney in private practice until 1977. He then served as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1977-78, a judge of the Superior Court from 1978 to 1983, and as one of the six original judges of the Connecticut Appellate Court from 1983 to 1990. He also served as president of the Connecticut Judges Association from 1981 to 1983.
“He was a brilliant scholar whose body of work will have a lasting impact upon the law in Connecticut,” Rogers said. She said Borden also “had a quick wit, endless energy and an insatiable curiosity, particularly when it came to travel and experiencing different cultures.”
He is survived by his wife, Judy, and their three children.
“He loved life and at his core, Justice Borden loved his family most of all: his wife, Judy, his children, grandchildren, siblings and extended family,” Rogers said. “In other words, Justice Borden always had his priorities straight, and his perspective on what was important contributed greatly to making him the judge and justice he became.”