'Big Hot Potato'
Perhaps one of the most high-profile instances of a Connecticut judge testifying took place in New London in the 1990s.
Shawn Tiernan, a senior assistant public defender in New London, said the lawyers around that coastal city still talk about the case of Jancis Fuller. Back in 1997, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for shooting several bullets into the home of a neighbor, Superior Court Judge Robert C. Leuba, with whom she had some sort of disagreement.
"That was a big hot potato around here for a while," said Tiernan. "Jancis Fuller is still in jail."
At trial, Leuba testified about the shooting, and Fuller was found guilty of first-degree assault and carrying a pistol without a permit. On appeal, Fuller claimed that the trial judge, Thomas Parker, was "improperly influnenced" by his professional relationship with Lueba. Perhaps her most compelling point was that as deputy chief court administrator for the Judicial Branch, Leuba had supervisory authority over other judges, including Parker. That, Fuller argued, should have prompted Parker to recuse himself.
The state Appellate Court shot her down, finding there was nothing improper in how Parker handled the trial. "In addition, we find there is no evidence in this record to indicate that Robert C. Leuba, directly or indirectly, excercised any of his authority to affect the objectivity of the trial judge throughout this case," the court wrote.
Teirnan, who handles misdemeanor cases for the most part in the New London court, said confronting a judge's testimony on behalf of a client would be "terribly challenging."
"It's like anything else," he said, "you would want to approach the witness in a way that would help you achieve your purpose on behalf of your client."