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Chief court administrator for the Superior Court in Connecticut Robert C. Leuba says he never has to wonder why Judge Anthony V. DeMayo might be calling. “When Tony DeMayo’s on the phone,” Leuba says. “It’s about pro bono representation … Tony DeMayo’s been pursuing legal assistance for the poor as long as I’ve known him.” And for that persistence, The Connecticut Law Tribune will honor DeMayo on June 14. The judge will receive the newspaper’s Pro Bono award at a ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. at Pastis Restaurant in Hartford, Conn. “Judge DeMayo has a solid, and well-deserved reputation as a champion of pro bono services,” said Vincent M. Valvo, publisher and editor of the Tribune. “We’re pleased to be able to honor his achievements with this award.” Legal services attorneys use words like “passionate” and “heart and soul” when discussing DeMayo’s commitment to legal aid for the poor. “The word that comes to my mind is ‘champion,’” says Norman Janes, the executive director of Statewide Legal Services. “It’s nice to have somebody in the judicial branch who understands who we are and what we do.” Janes says DeMayo is not shy about spreading the pro bono gospel. “He’ll carry the flag anywhere,” he said. DeMayo has been a moving force on the Connecticut Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee for the 11 years that the committee has been in existence, and for many years before that on its precursor panel. He attends every meeting without fail — the only possible exception occurring when his beloved University of Connecticut Women Huskies have an important game. CBA president William F. Gallagher, who took his turn chairing the Pro Bono Committee, says he was “amazed … to see him at every meeting. He’d raise his eyebrows if I walked in five minutes late.” The CBA’s Jennifer Lewis, a former staff liaison to the Pro Bono Committee, speaks fondly of DeMayo and of his willingness to tackle controversial matters. “He puts his heart into it if he believes in it,” she says. CBA vice-president Barbara Collins, who now chairs the Pro Bono Committee, says DeMayo is constantly looking at ways to make life easier for legal services and pro bono lawyers. In his courtroom, for example, the judge hears pro bono cases first, so that attorneys need not spend needless hours in court on a case for which they’re not getting paid. But the attorneys who appear before him had better be doing their best for their clients. “He’s very solicitous towards people’s rights, and gets very upset with lawyers who are screwing over people, or not living up to their responsibilities to them,” Gallagher says. Representing those who can’t afford to pay for representation, DeMayo says, is “what separates us, or should separate us, from the rest of the world. It’s a basic right we have built into our system. It seems to me it should be every American’s heritage. We don’t seem to realize it.” DeMayo began representing indigent clients in New Haven, Conn., soon after he was admitted to the bar in 1951. The program was a private one then, staffed during the academic year mostly by Yale Law School students, and during the summer by sympathetic private counsel. DeMayo, named to the bench in 1981, has maintained his unflagging support for legal assistance programs through both the creation of federally funded legal services programs and their evisceration under the Reagan administration. Legal aid programs, he said, are still not getting the funding they need. “We’re not making progress,” DeMayo laments. “In the most affluent time in years, legal aid budgets are about where they were.” He says that’s because “people who are the victims are not the most popular, not the most vocal, and they don’t have clout. Somebody always has to speak for them. When was the last time [politicians] worried about the homeless?” asks DeMayo. Most certainly, DeMayo has. For instance, in the 1989 case of Hilton v. New Haven, he ordered the city of New Haven to keep open a homeless shelter as long as there was demand for it. DeMayo held that Connecticut had a responsibility dating back to colonial days to support the poor. In 1992 the legislature gutted the law on which DeMayo had relied. “The tragedy in that case,” DeMayo says, “is that the legislature saw fit to junk 350 years of social justice when they changed that law.”

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