Born: Thursday, September 8th, 1892
Died: Sunday, August 31st, 1947
Birthplace: Bellingham, Washington
Education: Gonzaga, B.A. (1912); M.A. (1914)
Gonzaga, LL.B. (1915)
Career: Deputy Prosecutor (1920-1921; 1924-1928)
U.S. Attorney (1942-1946)
Served: Monday, April 22nd, 1946 to Monday, January 13th, 1947
Political Party: Democrat
Appointing Governor: Wallgren (Democrat)Ed Connelly, regarded as one of the best criminal lawyers that Gonzaga Law School produced, learned his trade in the front lines of the prosecutor’s office against such masters of the adversary process as George Vanderveer and Richard Nuzum. When the challenge of the trial brought his skill together with his enthusiasm, he proved a formidable opponent. According to an old acquaintance, Connelly found
Office practice … a necessary but drab routine and something to do between trials, for trial work was his first love … His sharp cross-examinations, based upon thorough preparation and ready flow of beautiful English before juries and courts, his resonant voice, his apparent enjoyment of the work … will not be soon forgotten. To him, every trial was a drama.
Connelly, born on September 8, 1892 in Bellingham, Washington, of pioneer parents Patrick Edward and Elizabeth (Murphy) Connelly-who arrived in Whatcom County in the 1870s-was one of three brothers. After public schooling in Bellingham, Connelly attended Gonzaga College, earning a B.A. in 1912 and an M.A. in 1914. A member of the first graduating class of the Gonzaga Law School in 1915, Connelly taught in the Gonzaga grade school while attending classes.
After graduation he became secretary to newly appointed supreme court Judge J. Stanley Webster, one of his instructors at Gonzaga Law School. When Judge Webster resigned to run for Congress, Connelly moved to Raymond as city attorney and deputy prosecutor for Pacific County for the years 1920-1921.
He married Grace Ellsworth of Olympia in 1920. They had two sons, Ellsworth and James, who studied law and established successful practices in Spokane and Tacoma.
In 1924 Connelly returned to Spokane as chief assistant prosecutor for Spokane County, where he remained until1928 when he joined with Judge George Turner and Richard Nuzum to form one of the most effective partnerships in Spokane, known especially for its trial work. He also taught at the law school throughout his Spokane residency. In 1942 Judge Louis Schwellenbach appointed him U. S. Attorney, and he served four years. Over many years of practice, Connelly was admitted to the bars of the federal district courts in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, and to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. But in large measure Connelly’s political activities, rather than his professional attainments, contributed most to his supreme court appointment by Governor Mon Wallgren in 1946.
The judge gained considerable partisan experience, beginning in 1932 when he served as Schwellenbach’s eastern Washington campaign manager in his successful run for the U. S. Senate. When Franklin Roosevelt appointed Schwellenbach Secretary of Labor, Connelly became a key adviser on reorganization. He participated in state and local politics, serving as Democratic state committeeman and presiding over at least one state convention. In 1948 he managed Mon Wallgren’s senatorial campaign and played a leading role in his gubernatorial race. But the political connections that brought him appointment failed him in his effort to remain on the supreme court.
Matthew Hill, former head of the University of Washington alumni association, noted public speaker, and unsuccessful candidate for U. S. Congress on the Republican ticket in 1938, filed against incumbent Justice Connelly in July 1946. Hill, well-known throughout the state, gained endorsement by the Republicans and several conservative groups. Connelly campaigned as a candidate of the liberal Commonwealth Federation, supported by the Democratic organization. Religion also played a role in the race. Hill was an active member of the Baptist Church and a high-degree Mason while Connelly was Catholic and a leader in the Knights of Columbus. Connelly, unable to turn back Hill’s challenge, lost by over 60,000 votes in the November balloting.
Although he served less than a year on the court, Judge Connelly established a record with the bench and was regarded as a liberal on economic issues. With only a few decisions to his credit, he gave indications of being a fairly activist jurist, willing to intervene should he differ with the legislature, the governor, or their agents. Connelly’s law clerk claimed the judge adopted an individual decisional style. He arrived at his conclusions largely on his own, rarely consulting with other judges, reluctant to lobby his colleagues. It was a style dictated by his freshman status and the fact that he was an appointee and one of only three Democrats on a bench dominated by Republican conservatives. The brevity of his tenure also worked against his becoming influential in persuasion, bargaining, or working compromise. As soon as he began to become part of collective deliberations, he entered a bitter campaign that eventually led to his defeat.
Although nearly all of his experience was at the trial level, Judge Connelly carefully and thoroughly undertook his appellate work. The judge’s clerk described how he and Connelly went about their deliberations:
Judge Connelly would give me the facts (usually orally) – his point of view – direct me to brief it – to write a preliminary paper – then we would discuss the final “firming up.” [We could have had] more discussion and reasoning even though we were very close.
He remembered the judge as “outwardly friendly and giving to everyone,” someone who made him feel like a “member of the family.” “We walked and talked a lot about cases and ‘everything.’ ” Their working habits sometimes involved midnight to 8:00 A. M. sessions, ending with breakfast together.
After leaving the bench in January 1947, Judge Connelly returned to his Spokane law practice. He died of heart failure in August of that year.
The judge, a member of the Elks, Spokane Early Birds, Press Club, and Athletic Roundtable, remained supportive of his alma mater, assisting the law school in gaining initial provisional accreditation with the American Bar Association.
H. James Boswell, American Blue Book: Western Washington (1922), p. 93; and memorial services, Washington Reports, vol. 36, 2d (1950), pp. xx-xxiv.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.