Sheridan Moore '78 poses for the graduate magazine profile.
Sheridan Moore '78

Published in the Graduate Report, Fall/Winter 2012

When Judge Sheridan Moore ’78 was an undergraduate majoring in education at the University of Bridgeport, she had a close friend interested in going to law school who challenged Moore to do the same. “Heading into my senior year, I had decided that a career in education wasn’t what I wanted to pursue,” recalls Moore, “so I applied to law school, too. I got accepted at UConn; my friend ended up in law school in Texas.”

Since taking up her friend’s challenge to go to law school, Moore, who grew up in Queens, has forged a highly successful career as a legal aid attorney, public defender, private practitioner and, for the last fourteen years, Connecticut Superior Court judge. “I started working at New Haven Legal Assistance during my second year as a student at the Law School and worked there through that next summer,” says Moore. “During my third year at UConn I got involved in the Criminal Clinic. It was at that time that I came up with a plan: I would represent indigent people for approximately ten years and then open my own private practice.”

For all intents and purposes, Moore stuck to that plan, spending nearly two years handling family law and Social Security disability cases at Connecticut Legal Services in Bridgeport and Torrington and six years as a public defender in Waterbury (including a stint as the G.A.’s first dedicated juvenile public defender). In 1986, she opened a solo practice in Naugatuck, where she shared office space with an attorney with whom she played softball. “My practice was about 60% criminal and 40% almost anything else,” says Moore, laughing. “In a small town practice you take just about every case that comes in the door, though I sort of drew the line at heavy civil litigation and personal injury cases that went to trial.”

With a busy private practice to run and a growing involvement in Connecticut Bar Association activities, Moore gave virtually no thought to changing the direction of her career until a colleague encouraged her to interview and apply (unsuccessfully) for a judgeship in the early 1990s. “At some point several years later, Judge Joanne Kulawiz (Connecticut’s first female Circuit Court judge) encouraged me to reapply saying that Connecticut needed people like me on the bench,” Moore recalls with a hint of embarrassment. “So five or so years after my first interview I made the ‘big list’ that went to Governor [John] Rowland. I wasn’t appointed to any of his first four classes, but I was fortunate to get an appointment in April 1998.”

In her fourteen years on the bench, Moore has had a variety of assignments, including two years in the Family Division in Hartford and Waterbury and five years in juvenile court in Waterbury – an assignment she found particularly rewarding. “Juvenile is the place where a judge actually makes a decision in almost every situation. I also believe that because juvenile court judges are dealing with children they have a greater chance of having a lasting impact. I’ve had adults come up to me after a trial and tell me it was really good that I was their judge, but never someone who said that I had changed his or her life. On the other hand, time and time again I’ve had juvenile clients – and their parents – come back and tell me that I changed their lives. Just one of those [comments] is good for a year.”

Today, after assignments in New Haven Superior Court dealing with domestic violence cases and two years handling landlord/tenant disputes in the housing court in Bridgeport, Moore finds herself back in New Haven presiding over criminal trials – an assignment she requested because she wanted to “brush up on the skill set” judges use in criminal cases. “Criminal law, it seems to me, offers more fascination than civil trials,” explains Moore. “Though the charges may be the same in many criminal cases, every fact situation is different, so they really hold my interest.” Moore pauses and continues. “I really like what I am doing now, though I would love to go back and do juvenile trials again.”

While Moore remembers law school as the “hardest thing I ever went through,” her appreciation for the quality of education she received – and the “great friends” she made in the cafeteria at 1800 Asylum Avenue and at the 911 Asylum Avenue apartment complex she lived in with many of her classmates – motivated her to give back to her alma mater. “I went to a Law School Alumni Association dinner shortly after my brother passed away ten years ago and I heard Dean [Hugh] Macgill encourage us to give back as a way of thanking the Law School for what it had given all of us,” recalls Moore, who is currently serving her third term as a trustee of the Law School Foundation. “When he said that, it really resonated with me and I said to myself, ‘Yeah, I am one of those fortunate people.’ So I started a scholarship fund in my brother Tyrone’s name. It made my mom very, very happy.”