In late 1954, several members of Connecicut's plaintiff's bar met to discuss forming a statewide organization. At that time, the legal climate here often favored powerful institutional and corporate interests at the expense of people injured by those same institutions and corporations. Awards to injured plaintiffs were often cruelly inadequate compensation for severe and disabling injuries. The defense bar had aggressively organized, sharing trial strategies, information and ideas on a national scale. Our founders recognized the need to make the same advantages available to the state's trial lawyers.
Charles Segal, Sigmund Miller, James Kennedy, Mitchell Barber, Carlos Ella and others met with Leon RisCassi and Ted Koskoff. Their effort resulted in NACCA of Connecticut, modeled on the National Association of Compensation Claimants Attorneys. Their goals were to help trial lawyers secure fair recoveries for their injured clients and to improve the substance and practice of law in our state. In 1964, NACCA of Connecticut became the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association.
Through the years, CTLA has prospered by serving members' needs and earning their dedication. Over four decades, starting with Leon RisCassi and Ted Koskoff, CTLA's list of presidents reads as a who's who of Connecticut's plaintiff's bar. Today's members are heirs to their foresight and dedication.
During CTLA's first 20 years, members volunteered facilities and staff to meet administrative and program needs. Success brought growth. In 1975, leadership hired a part-time director to manage the expanding membership and programs. Today, CTLA's full-time Executive Director oversees a wide range of services and initiatives managed by professional program staff.
From the beginning, at small informal meetings in members' offices, or at larger, informational gatherings before or during membership meetings or dinners, CTLA's members met to exchange information on cases. Even the most experienced attorneys found that they often took away as much as they had given as presenters. In time this "case review" method was replaced by formal seminars with panels comprised of leading "specialist" practitioners. Today, CTLA offers at least fifteen programs each year, ensuring that members have the opportunity to remain current with technique and the law.
CTLA founders Leon RisCassi (a former State Senate Majority Leader) and Theodore Koskoff spearheaded early efforts to affect the legislative process on behalf of individuals and plaintiffs. Many CTLA members served long hours without compensation to defend existing rights and client protections. They battled against initiatives like the no-fault insurance scheme and the assault on the doctrine of strict liability in tort for dangerously defective products. As a result, members averted many of the greatest dangers posed by the "tort reform" efforts of the 1960's and 1970's.
This intensity of member involvement in legislative matters demonstrated that CTLA required professional staff to support the member effort. CTLA's contract lobbyists now carry out a legislative agenda as directed by CTLA's Legislative Committee and Board of Governors. With the success of this strategy in protecting client rights has come wide membership support and large numbers of specially dedicated contributions. All of this has enabled CTLA to become one of the most respected and successful lobbying forces in our state, despite counter-efforts by powerful interests opposed to maintaining the rights of injured persons.
No CTLA founder could have envisioned our many achievements. CTLA has become a major force in the affairs of the State of Connecticut – on behalf of its members, but most importantly, for injured individuals. A vigorous, enlightened, and committed membership ensures that CTLA will continue its best efforts to meet our founders' goals – continually improving Connecticut's trial bar to better serve the people.