Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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John Munson Comley, an associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on July 1, 1895. His father, Judge William Henry Comley, Sr., had come to Bridgeport from his native England in the late 1860s. He married Lucy Nicholson. John was the youngest of their five children. After William Henry Comley, Sr., had married and while he was employed in a Bridgeport industry, he had studied law, was admitted to the Connecticut bar and became one of the leaders in Fairfield County, serving at one time as judge of the City Court.
John attended the Bridgeport public schools. He was an excellent student. He entered Yale College where after three years and a year in law school he obtained a B.A. degree and for his scholarship was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society. He had received a permanent injury to his arm when a boy, but nevertheless he volunteered for service in World War I and served as a sergeant in the quartermaster corps. After the war he returned to Yale, completed his course of studies and was graduated from the Yale Law School in 1920. In college and law school he was a diligent student and was elected to the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal.
John's older brothers, William H. Comley, Jr., and Arthur M. Comley, both Yale College and Yale Law School graduates, had practiced law in Bridgeport with their father until he died in 1917. In 1919 the two older Comley brothers formed a law partnership with John S. Pullman. John Comley joined the firm as an associate after his graduation from law school. The law firm, Pullman and Comley, became an acknowledged leader at the Fairfield County bar. William H. Comley, Jr., was appointed state's attorney for Fairfield County in 1924, succeeding the late Homer Cummings, who subsequently became the attorney general of the United States. William Comley served with great ability as state's attorney until his retirement from that office in 1937. In 1939 he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court. The law firm continues to this day as Pullman, Comley, Bradley and Reeves. Frederick L. Comley. son of William H. Comley, Jr., is presently the senior partner.
John Comley was an able and active lawyer. He had a keen and well-stocked legal mind. In 1924 George W. Wheeler, then chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court asked John to become the reporter of judicial decisions. He accepted, succeeding the late James P. Andrews, who had held that important post for a good many years. John served until 1929, when he was asked to become a member of the Stamford law firm of Durey and Pierson, the firm name becoming Durey, Pierson and Comley. The following years while John remained in practice were the most active years of his life. He was not only extremely busy as a lawyer but in other activities as well: an editor of the Connecticut Bar Journal; a member of the American Law Institute; a director on the board of the Stamford Hospital, the Stamford Water Company, and the First National Bank and Trust Co. of Stamford; and a member of the State Bar Examining Committee and the State Judicial Council.
When Judge William H. Comley, Jr., reached the age of retirement from the Superior Court on October 12, 1945, John was appointed to the Superior Court to succeed him. On August 31, 1963, John became an associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. He retired on July 1, 1965, upon reaching the constitutional retirement age of seventy. He served several years as an active state trial referee until illness made his complete retirement necessary. He died on December 14, 1974, at age seventy-nine.
John Comley married Grace Aufford of Stratford in 1925. Two children were born of this marriage: a daughter, Mrs. Richard Philbrick, and a son, John M. Comley, Jr., both of Barrington, R.I. Grace died in 1933. John subsequently married the former Frances Bruggerhof of Stamford. Besides his wife and children, John at his death was survived by a sister, Mrs. Hubert Provost of Fairfield; a nephew, Frederick L. Comley; and five grandchildren.
John Comley was exceptionally well qualified to serve as a judge in our courts. His experience in general practice with two law firms and as reporter of judicial decisions for the state's highest appellate court had given him the opportunity of obtaining a broad knowledge of fundamental law and court procedure. As a judge, John grasped very quickly the fundamental issues of a case and the rules of law applicable thereto. He never, however, attempted to display his broad legal knowledge or by reason thereof to interfere in the conduct of a trial by counsel. As a judge he was an excellent listener. His memoranda of decisions and his charges to juries were prepared well and are models of those particular arts.
Judge Comley's personality was warm and friendly. He had a keen sense of humor. When off the bench and among his brethren on the bench and at the bar he was accounted a keen wit. His record as a trial lawyer and on the bench ranked high in his chosen profession. He will be long remembered as a good lawyer and an excellent trial and appellate judge.[footer.htm]