Dr. James C. Black, a psychiatrist who practiced in West Hartford, was an icon known well to those whose legal practices periodically called for expert intervention, counsel or forensic opinion involving a child or family dynamic.
Black, who died in January at age 78, helped countless families grapple with the courts, juvenile issues and problems, providing insight that sent them home with the recipe or script for eventual repair or referring them (or taking them on as patients) for seriously important and life changing therapies.
He understood the legal landscape well and harnessed the synergy between the two professionsbetween the legal and medical institutions that are often at odds with one another. He married medicine to the law. When it came to families, mental health and children, he helped the law do a better job. He brought a depth of understanding into courtrooms too often forced to intervene in the complex dance between parents and their children. He viewed his relationship with the bar as a partnership, with the common goal of improving the lives of families and importantly, the lives of the children unwittingly caught up in adult conflict.
I and others depended upon Jim and his insight, his finesse, his brilliance, to unravel seemingly intractable family conflict. I relished watching him, with his characteristic unassuming demeanor, make sense of the complex psychic puzzle and forge paths to resolution in one patient after another.
In life there are movers and shakers who come and go. There are legions of young men and women poised to capably assume the mantle of their elders even prominent elders whose passing garners more than momentary praise. In this instance the legal profession has lost an ally, trusted colleague and friend. As counterintuitive as it sounds, this doctor made us all better judges and lawyers.
Those whose professional, personal and clients' lives were touched by Dr. Jim Black over the last 40 years know his loss creates a void not easily filled. His passing last month is cause for Connecticut's legal world to be very sad indeed and for a long time to come.
Attorney Christina Storm is the founder and director of Lawyers Without Borders, now headquartered in New Haven.