Vanessa L. Bryant ’78 Retires From Federal Bench

Vanessa L. Bryant

Judge Vanessa L. Bryant '78 has retired as of Dec. 31, 2023 from the U.S. District Court in the District of Connecticut, where she served for more than 16 years. The first Black woman appointed to the federal court in New England, she issued many notable decisions, including a ruling in 2012 that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the Constitution. Before her appointment to the federal bench, Bryant served as a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court. She previously was a partner at Hawkins, Delafield & Wood LLP; a member of the Board of Pardons; Chapter 13 trustee for the United States Bankruptcy Court of the District of Connecticut; vice president and general counsel of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority; in-house counsel at Aetna Life & Casualty Co. and Shawmut Bank; and an associate at Day Pitney LLP, formerly Day, Berry & Howard LLP. Bryant, who took senior status in 2021,is legally blind and a role model for those with visual impairments.

2023 Graduate: Bryce Simmons

Bryce Simmons stands in front of the "Middle Path" sculpture on the UConn Law campus.
Bryce Simmons is a member of the 2023 UConn Law graduating class.

Bryce Simmons CLAS ’20 LAW ’23 developed a strong interest in politics in high school and went on to major in political science at UConn. During a congressional internship with Senator Richard Blumenthal, she found an interest in law and decided to attend UConn Law.

Simmons will graduate with a JD on May 14. After that, she plans to serve as law clerk to Judge Thomas Farrish LAW '05, a federal magistrate judge for the District of Connecticut. The following year, she plans to join the Connecticut law firm of Robinson & Cole.

Her biggest surprise about UConn Law was how quickly she was able to get to know people and feel part of the community on the closeknit campus.

“My biggest takeaway from UConn Law has to be the amazing people I have met along the way, with both professors and students,” Simmons said. “I have definitely made some lifelong connections in these past three years.”

During her time at UConn Law, Simmons has been a research assistant and fellow in the Center on Community Safety, Policing and Inequality as well as president of the Black Law Students Association.

She especially liked taking advantage of good-weather days, sitting outside in the picnic grove, working, socializing with other students, and enjoying the beautiful campus, and encourages everyone else to do so during their time at UConn Law.