The bar of the state of Connecticut lost a legendary figure with the recent death of Raymond W. Ganim of Stratford. Few, if any, lawyers had his record for success in a courtroom, particularly in state and federal criminal cases.
Ganim, who died at age 93, practiced his art for more than 60 years. Born and raised in Stratford, he started working as a child at his parents vegetable stand in the north end of Bridgeport. He went on to serve in the U.S. military. Ganim graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and began practicing in Detroit representing cab drivers. At the direction of his father, he soon returned to Bridgeport to practice law.
Ganim began an active and very successful career, chiefly in the criminal field. His clientele reflected the breadth and gravity of his practice. For example, he obtained an acquittal for two physicians charged with performing an abortion in the 1950s; an elderly man accused of killing a dancer after a birthday party; and a motorcycle gang member accused of shooting a police officer.
Of course, not all of Ganim’s criminal defenses were successful. But what was always present was the high quality of his legal work. It was not an easy task. His practice started at a time, the 1950s, when criminal defendants enjoyed far less rights than they do today and the criminal justice system was more hostile toward the defense bar. Notwithstanding this challenging environment, every prosecutor who faced him in a courtroom knew that he or she was in for a struggle when Ganim was the adversary. He was a member of a diminishing breed of lawyer, one who regularly practices their profession not by mediating their cases, but trying them before a judge and a jury. The focus of his practice was trial work and he was very good at it.
Ganim was not just an excellent advocate. He practiced law with grace and good cheer. It is a testament to his character that he was beloved not just by his friends and fellow defense lawyers but by prosecutors and judges throughout the state. While aggressively protecting his clients’ interests, he still maintained cordial relationships with those whose interests were not allied with his. Further, Ganim was always available to those who sought his counsel, particularly young members of the bar. He generously gave his time to advise them with his wisdom of many years. No one will forget that tremendous experience. This may explain, in part, why he was affectionately known to the Bridgeport-area bar, both young and old, as “Uncle Ray.”
An accomplished raconteur, Ganim was well known for this proverb of financial advice to lawyers: “Listen. If it’s Friday afternoon and the secretary hasn’t been paid; and you walk into my office with a murder charge and a hundred dollars cash — well, my friend, you got yourself a lawyer.”
Ganim’s obituary stated that “many” people considered him the dean of the Bridgeport area’s criminal defense bar. That was a mistake. It should have said “all.”