Barry R. Schaller

The Honorable Barry R. Schaller, retired Associate Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court and a noted author and educator, particularly on issues of legal ethics, bioethics, and public policy, died peacefully Saturday, September 10, surrounded by family. He was 78, and had suffered from a rare form of leukemia. A distinguished jurist, he was known not only for his stint on the state’s highest court (2007-2008), but also as a respected judge on the Connecticut Appellate Court, where he served from 1992 to 2007. Before that, Schaller was a trial judge for 18 years. Schaller was born on November 23, 1938 to Raymond and Mildred Schaller, of Hartford. He was a 1960 graduate of Yale College. Three years later he completed his J.D. at Yale Law School and went into private practice in New Haven. In 1974, Schaller, 35, became the youngest judge to serve on a state court. It was in that role, in the 1980s, that he presided over one of the state’s most complex cases of civil litigation when he heard arguments in the trial of Colonial Realty. In addition to his work on the bench, Schaller served as an adjunct professor at many of the state’s most esteemed colleges and universities – Trinity, Wesleyan, Quinnipiac, and Yale, where he has been teaching an annual fall course at the Yale Law School in Appellate Law. In 2008, Quinnipiac awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

He had an abiding interest in bioethics and served on committees addressing these and other medical ethics concerns at both Middlesex Hospital in Middletown and Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford. This work later inspired Schaller’s book, Understanding Bioethics and Law, which was published in 2007. Similarly, his work at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics addressing the psychological challenges posed to those who had experienced the rigors of combat led to Veterans on Trial in 2012. Schaller was an avid baseball fan who once counted A. Bartlett Giamatti, a Yale classmate who eventually became the Commissioner of baseball, as a friend. They were avid Red Sox fans together, approving of the philosophical message in “The Field of Dreams.” As an Appellate Judge, and then as a Supreme Court Justice, he enjoyed pitching in the annual baseball competition between the two Courts. The trophy, which is displayed in the winning Court foyer each year, has recently been named in his honor.

And Schaller was an admirer of great literature. In 2016, Schaller published his first novel, The Ramadi Affair, and only days before his death, he completed another work of fiction, Flight from Aleppo, which will be published posthumously. His very first book was built on Schaller’s appreciation for literature. In A Vision of American Law: Judging Law, Literature and the Stories We Tell, he examined the legal issues and societal values at the core of some of the greatest works of American literature, including those written by William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Eugene O’Neill, John Steinbeck and many others. There, Schaller lamented how “… in focusing on our differences, we overlook the common ground we share” and he closed with a quote from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: “America is woven of many strands… Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many… ”

Physical fitness mattered to Schaller throughout his lifetime and he enjoyed competing in local marathons, often prevailing over considerably younger competitors.

At his death, Barry Schaller lived with his wife of38 years, Carol, in Guilford, CT. In addition to her, he is survived by a blended family of7 children, 16 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to “The Schaller Family Leukemia Research Fund” and mailed to Smilow Cancer Center in care of Amer M. Zeidan, M.D., Fund Director, 37 College Street, First Floor, New Haven, CT 06510.

A funeral service will be held at Battell Chapel at Yale on Sunday, September 24 at 3:00 in the afternoon. A Memorial Celebration and reception will follow in the Yale Law School Derald H. Ruttenberg Dining Hall. Enter through 127 Wall Street. Please use street parking and lots 78 and 80.