Judge Nazzaro leaving the bench for private practice in New London

Superior Court Judge John J. Nazzaro is resigning from the bench effective Dec. 29 to return to private practice.

Nazzaro, 58, a married father of three from Pawcatuck, will be rejoining the Reardon Law Firm of New London, where he worked previously, as a civil trial lawyer.

Nominated to the bench in August 2007 by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, he said he was the second Asian-American to become a judge in Connecticut. During his decade of service, Nazzaro presided over civil, criminal and family cases at courts throughout the state. He served as the presiding judge over civil matters in New London during the last judicial term and said it was a "surreal experience" to hear cases in courtrooms 4 and 5 of the Huntington Street courthouse, where he had tried so many cases as a lawyer in private practice.

Nazzaro was reassigned earlier this fall to New Haven Superior Court. It was then, Nazzaro said, that he began to think about returing to private practice. His current eight-year term as a judge would have extended to 2024. He said he wanted to give plenty of notice of his departure at the end of the year. He delivered a resignation letter to Gov. Dannel  P. Malloy on Oct. 6.

"It was a privilege and an honor to serve as a judge," Nazzaro said in a phone interview Wednesday evening from Boston, where he was looking at colleges with his youngest daughter. "I entered into public life because I wanted to do some social good. When I was in private practice, I was fairly successful and took an extreme reduction in pay (to become a judge). My youngest is going to college, and I find my desire to get back into court as a litigator outweighs my desire to wear the robe."

It is unusual, though not unheard of, for judges to resign from the bench prior to qualifying for a full pension that equates to about 2/3 of their annual salary. Nazzaro said he would be eligible for a partial pension when he turns 65. Judges currently earn about $167,000 a year.

Attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr. said he is excited to have Nazzaro back at the Reardon Law Firm, a boutique firm on Hempstead Street that specializes in personal injury and wrongful death cases.

"Judge Nazzaro was a member of our firm early in his career, and we're really excited to have him back," Reardon said by phone. "He's an excellent trial lawyer. He's generous with time to his clients to a fault. He's always willing to lend an ear to our clients, and I know that he's a vigorous advocate for their causes."

Nazzaro said Reardon would not be appearing before him while he finishes out the year in civil court in New Haven. He said he is acutely aware of the need to avoid even the appearance of ethical improprieties, having served as a state prosecutor at the beginning of his career and on the Judicial Review Council, which investigates complaints of misconduct by judges, while on the bench.

"I was with Bob Reardon for nine years and have tremendous respect for the work of the firm, the lawyers, and the quality of work they have done for decades," he said. "I was presented with a very attractive offer, and I'm looking forward to getting back in the courtroom as an advocate and joining a great team."

Nazzaro is a board certified trial lawyer and a judicial fellow of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. In 2016, he was the first Connecticut judge to receive the Connecticut Law Tribune's award for professional excellence and lifetime achievement. In his personal life, Nazzaro is a musician who has frequently played acoustic guitar and sang at various venues under the stage name "Jack" Nazzaro.

Reardon said that when he and his daughter, attorney Kelly E. Reardon, met with Nazzaro, they all came away excited about the possibility of his joining the firm. 

"Once he arrives, we'll keep him very busy," Reardon said. "With the vast experience he's had, he'll be able to take on a significant caseload of complex cases."

k.florin@theday.com

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