Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 126, page(s) 728-279


Isaac Wolfe was born in the city of New Haven on November 2, 1859, the son of Cerf Wolfe and Mina Wolfe. His parents moved to this country from Alsace, Germany, in the year 1848. His early boyhood days were spent in that section of New Haven known as "The Hill" where as a youth he attended the old South School until he reached the age of twelve years.

Upon leaving school he secured employment at the New Haven Register where he worked as a printer's apprentice, and after having served his apprenticeship he became a qualified printer, and in the course of time rose to the position of foreman in the composing-room. While employed by the New Haven Register, he attracted the attention of the Hon. Samuel A. York who was editor of the New Haven Register, and through the influence of Judge York, he attended the Yale Law School while employed at the Register and graduated from this school in 1887, at which time he was admitted to practice. Upon admission to the bar, he became associated with Judge York, where he practiced under the guidance of Judge York, and later on became associated as a partner with Samuel A. York, Jr.

While employed at the Register and while attending Yale Law School, he was elected to the common council of the city of New Haven and later became president of that body. In 1889 he was elected representative from the city of New Haven to the General Assembly. Later on in life after his retirement from the bench, he was a delegate from New Haven to the state ratification convention in 1933.

Twenty years after his admission to the bar, he succeeded his close friend, Hon. Jacob Ullman, as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for New Haven County serving with great distinction in this capacity. It was here that he realized the need of a helping hand for the younger lawyers who tried their cases for the most part in this court. He was indeed sympathetic and kind to all young and inexperienced attorneys and his office was always open from the time he took the Common Pleas bench until the date of his death to discuss the problems which necessarily confronted those who were starting in practice.

In the year 1920 Governor Marcus Holcomb appointed him to the Superior Court, which appointment he held until he reached the constitutional age limit in November, 1929. He was the first member of the Jewish faith to become a Judge of the Superior Court and he acquitted himself upon the bench in a manner that acquired for him thousands of admirers throughout the state and during his life as a Superior Court judge, he rendered untiring, devoted and excellent service to the people of the State of Connecticut.

Upon his retirement from the bench, he became a state referee but retirement to him was only a word because he continued to carry on as a state referee working constantly in that capacity and assisting the judges of the Superior Court in carrying on the many burdens heaped upon them. The work on the bench seemed to be his chief source of happiness.

His civic activities were numerous. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Connecticut State Bar Association and the New Haven County Bar Association, and in the latter he played an unusually active part. He was secretary of the Yale Law School class of 1887, a director of the Union & New Haven Trust Company, the New Haven Hospital, the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the New Haven Community Chest, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, the Jewish Welfare Society of New Haven and the Yale Law School Alumni Association. He was a member of the advisory committee of the Visiting Nurses' Association, chairman of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the New Haven Bar and a member of the Congregation Mishkan Israel.

In his chosen profession he manifested a keen interest. As a lawyer and jurist he labored to the end that justice might at all times prevail. He understood human problems and emotions. He possessed an uncanny faculty of reaching a practical solution to the many problems that confronted him. None of us will forget his smile of satisfaction when he had successfully adjusted litigation that had all the indicia of bitter controversy, tedious days of trial, the costly appeal and all that procedure which usually left the victor with a naked legal right but very little in substance. He taught lawyers the lesson of give and take and the value of compromise. He loved to send litigants on their way with the feeling that the utmost sympathy and attention had been given to all their grievances and that they had parted good friends rather than lifelong enemies.

He treasured more than anything else in life the many friendships he had made throughout the bench and bar of the State of Connecticut. His kindly nature, his sympathetic understanding, his devotion to duty and his simple, sincere, humble manner won for him the love and respect of all who knew him. Their friendships to him made life really worth while; nothing was dearer; nothing more cherished. Is there a richer or more priceless heritage?