We all lost a good friend in January. Gerry Esposito, a judge for nine years and a prosecutor for twenty years before that, passed away tragically at the age of 57. Gerry was struck with a massive heart attack at the end of December. He is survived by his wife, Robin, and three children, Emily, Chrissy and Matt.
Gerry was the personification of decency. He lived by the Golden Rule. He was smart, clever, witty and creative. He knew how to use the law to solve problems, not make them. As both a judge and prosecutor he understood and appreciated the perspectives of all the participants in the court system. He knew how to accommodate the travel schedules of the marshals, the deadlines of monitors and stenographers and the multitasking requirements of clerks, both in and out of the courtroom. Most of all, however, he understood the emotional frustrations of the baffled and woebegone who came before him. With those concerns in mind, Gerry could create solutions to seemingly insolvable problems. He had, refreshingly in our cynical world, a faith in the goodness of the human condition. In Gerry’s world, the glass was half-full, not half-empty.
I remember Gerry as a prosecutor in GA 5 in Derby, sleeves rolled up, tie loosened, plowing good-naturedly through each day’s docket. There was a time before computers when I would just continue cases to some future date without reference to a schedule. Inevitably there were conflicts. One day as I sat across the desk from Gerry I produced and unfolded a computerized calendar. Gerry was stunned but spontaneous. “Hey, look everybody. Willie just found out about calendars. Next week he’s going to come in and tell us about the wheel!” How do you beat that attitude.
Once as we were bs’ing about the dangers of e-mails, Gerry spoke of his days in Boston working with local politicians and what he’d learned from them. He quoted them with an admonition I’ve tried to live by and which I’ve repeated to countless others:
"If you can say it without writing, speak.
If you can say it without speaking, nod."
My most lasting memory of Gerry, however, is in the “alleyway” from the judge’s chambers to the bench behind Courtroom A in GA 23. I walk out from chambers and Gerry’s behind me, ready to take the bench. I look back and, before he knocks on the door to alert the marshals, he makes the sign of the cross.
That was how Gerry lived. We all benefited from it and we will miss him.
For those so inclined, Gerry’s family asked that memorial contributions be made to the St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen at 930 Dixwell Avenue in Hamden.