Daniel Klau remembers his grandfather as he is sworn in as Superior Court Judge
By Stacey Dresner
WEST HARTFORD – For many years, attorney Daniel Klau has kept one of his grandfather’s judicial robes hanging on the back of his office door.
“My grandfather was a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court…a trial court judge. He served in that position from 1957 until his death in May of 1988.
“He just loved being a judge,” Klau said.
A partner with the Hartford law firm of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter for several years, Klau dreamed of one day becoming a judge like his grandfather.
On May 3, that wish came true as he was sworn in as a Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court.
Klau wore his grandfather’s judicial robe during that ceremony, as well as at a more formal one attended by several family members on June 19.
“Being able to wear my grandfather’s robes is just an extraordinary honor for me,” Klau said. “It is a connection to somebody who has been gone for years, who I loved dearly, and who had the same passion for the law.”
Daniel Klau was born in Hartford and grew up in Bloomfield. The son of David and Barbara “Bobby” Klau of West Hartford, he ‘graduated from Bloomfield High School in 1980 before going to the University of California – San Diego.
He majored in political science. At that time, he says, he had no interest in becoming a lawyer.
“I did not want to go to law school. In fact, at my last college reunion one of my roommates was laughing remembering me ranting as a graduating senior that the last thing that I would ever do would be go to law school,” he says.
What were his career goals?
“My career goals were I was a clueless 22-year-old and I was going to take several years off to ‘find myself,’” he laughed.
Klau started a business with a college roommate delivering fast food to the dorms at his old university and he lived in a little house on Del Mar Beach.
Six months later he moved back to Connecticut and got a job working in his maternal grandfather Sidney Shane’s business selling Styrofoam. A year later, he got a job at the Connecticut State Department of Education in Hartford doing research. But he was still trying to find himself.
“That job with the Department of Education, coupled with meetings with a vocational counselor, persuaded me to try law school,” he explained. “Everybody said that all of those tests strongly suggested that I would both like and do well in law school.”
So after three years out in the working world, Klau applied and got into Boston University Law School.
“Within the fist week I knew I had made the best decision in my life – other than marrying my wife,” he said. “It was a perfect choice and I have loved it ever since.”
His grandfather Sidney passed away near the end of his first year of law school, “but that first year was a wonderful time for the two of us because he could see that I loved it and we had many opportunities to talk,” Klau recalled. “I had lots and lots of questions for him.”
After graduating from law school in 1990, he spent a year as the law clerk for Ellen Ash-Peters, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court – a prestigious position for the young law school graduate in which he did legal research and helped the judge write opinions.
“I tell people it was the best job I’ve had as a lawyer; it was all downhill after that,” he laughed.
He later worked at the Boston law firm Ropes & Grey as an associate in the litigation department. He met his wife Jennifer during that time at an event of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish Federation.
In 1996, Klau and his growing family moved back to Connecticut and he began working for a New Haven law firm, Wiggin & Dana for seven years, becoming a partner and developing a reputation as an appellate lawyer.
In 2003 joined Pepe & Hazzard in Hartford (now McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter).
He also thought about becoming a judge someday.
“I had it in the back of my mind that sometime later in my career it would be something that I would very much like to do,” he recalls.
In 2004 he took the first formal step toward becoming a judge, which was filling out an extensive written application and submitting it to The Judicial Selection Commission. The names of those applicants approved is put on a private list that the governor must use in appointing new judges. Klau’s name went on the list in 2005. “For some people it happens quickly, but for myself, it took a long time,” he said.
That didn’t deter him.
“When I got the letter from the Judicial Selection Commission in June of 2005 I took one of my grandfather’s robes out and put in on the back of my door at work.”
Klau says he has loved being at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter and working over the years as an appellate lawyer specializing in the First Amendment and “open government” advocacy.
He remained at the firm until this spring when he was finally appointed a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court. He was among a class of 31 lawyers nominated to become judges by Gov. Dannel Malloy in April. He and the others were confirmed by the General Assembly May 3, officially becoming judges. That afternoon in his law firm’s office, his partner Louis R. Pepe swore him in, administering the oath.
On June 19, Gov. Malloy swore in Klau and his fellow judges in the legislature’s House Chamber.
Klau was wearing his grandfather’s robe both times, and now wears them as he serves as a new judge in the criminal court in New London, continuing that connection he feels with his grandfather.
“Connection is a big deal for me – continuity, tradition, passing things on, so I’ve been wearing his robes on the bench every day,” he said. “And when I have a question, I often ask myself, ‘What would my grandfather do?’”
CAP: Judge Daniel Klau, wearing his late grandfather’s judges robe, after being sworn in by Gov. Dannel Malloy June 19.
He is seen here with, from left to right, his brother Nathan; sister, Michal; mother, Bobby; wife, Jennifer;
daughter, Miriam; son, Etan; and his father, David Klau. Missing is his son, Ari Klau.