Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 158, page(s) 669-670


On September 24, 1969, Judge Leo V. Gaffney suddenly died in New Britain. This unforeseen tragedy profoundly shocked and saddened his associates and all who knew him.

Judge Gaffney was born on April 14, 1903, the son of the late Bernard F. Gaffney, who for many years was the judge of the Probate Court for the district of Berlin, and of the late Alice Lee Sherlock Gaffney. He attended the public schools of New Britain and Carlton Academy, where he graduated in 1921. He received his A.B. degree from Yale College in 1925 and his L.L.B. degree from Yale Law School in 1928. Upon his graduation from the Yale Law School. Upon his graduation from the Yale Law School, he was admitted to the bar of this state and immediately commenced the practice of law in association with his father and two brothers, now deceased, B. Donald Gaffney and Cyril F. Gaffney.

As a young lawyer he was an ardent advocate of the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and served as president of the New Britain branch of the Crusaders, an organization dedicated to the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, and as chairman of its campaign in 1933. He served the state of Connecticut with great distinction as an assistant attorney general from 1935 to 1944, when he was appointed United States Attorney for the district of Connecticut. That same year he resigned his office as United States Attorney to become a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the office of Governor. On April 30, 1963, Governor John N. Dempsey appointed him judge of the Superior Court to take effect on August 2, 1964.

On October 21, 1930, Judge Gaffney married Ruth Boylan, of Middletown, who survives him. They had three daughters, Mrs. Warren G. Hewes of Bath, Maine, Mrs. Ralph Hedenberg and Judith Gaffney of New Britain, and six grandchildren. Judge and Mrs. Gaffney's devotion to one another was unbounded. They loved their home and family. They derived great pleasure in planning vacation trips and were always happiest when they were together. No one ever enjoyed the company of his children and grandchildren more than did Leo, as he was affectionately called by his friends and colleagues.

As great as was his devotion to his family, he was no less devoted to his community and to the law. In addition to his service to his state and country, he served the city of New Britain as the first chairman of the Board of Adjustment, 1938-47; chairman of the Redevelopment Commission, 1959-61; and chairman of the Zoning Board. He was a past president of the Connecticut Bar Association and the Hartford County Bar Association. He was also a director of the Burritt Mutual Saving Bank. In 1963 the Yale Law School Alumni Association of Eastern Connecticut designated him as "Man of the Year."

Before assuming office on the Superior Court, Judge Gaffney was a skilled trial lawyer and a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He carefully prepared his cases and during a trial he was at all times forthright with the court, fair to witnesses and considerate of his adversities. Supplementing his knowledge of the law, he had a keen understanding of human nature and human behavior and could quickly discern what was true or false or hypocritical and insincere. He was by nature vigorous and enthusiastic. He was compassionate. He possessed a deep appreciation of the great powers and responsibilities resting upon a judge of the Superior Court. During his tenure of office on the bench he was called upon to preside over and determine an inordinate number of extraordinarily complicated cases. He presided over them with dignity and decided them promptly. It can be truly said that Judge Gaffney discharged his responsibilities with great credit to the judicial system and with justice to all litigants who appeared before him.

In the death of Judge Gaffney, the State has lost an outstanding judge; his widow, a devoted husband; and his children, a generous and understanding father.