Judge Dale Radcliffe And Carmen Lopez, Legal Power Couple

Changing the mind of a mayor is not an easy thing, especially when it appears a project is a done deal. It takes a rallying point or someone to help rally the opposition to make it clear holding firm will be more trouble than it’s worth. In the days leading up to Mayor Bill Finch vetoing a police plan to house a shooting range inside a revamped police precinct in the West End at the juxtaposition of City Council Districts, retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez was meticulously burning up the phone lines, issuing emails, organizing meetings, visiting the Zoning Department, reaching out to City Council members, police officials and questioning the tactics of city lawyers all on behalf of parents opposed to the proposed indoor range across from Cesar Batalla School.

Last week the mayor received an earful from parents at a community meeting at Batalla School. It was a noisy affair, according to folks who attended the session. The mayor has had success deflecting opposition to his favor at community meetings. Not at that meeting. It was enough for the mayor to say let’s stick this thing someplace else. Okay boys and girls, go figure it out and don’t dare put it near a neighborhood school.

Finch understands what occurred on September 10 when every Democratic Town Committee endorsed candidate was vanquished by challengers was a potential game changer for his reelection in 2015. Ignoring the wishes of angry parents is not good government or politics for Finch coming on the heels of the primary results.

In her cause célèbre on behalf of the disenfranchised, Lopez has emerged as a formidable legal foe of the city’s political power structure. When Lopez retired from the bench five years ago she didn’t sit back very long before challenging governmental decision making. She herself understands political process. Decades ago as a young attorney, she was part of the political establishment. No more. Not in the current configuration of city politics, anyway. She asks questions, makes strong arguments and challenges the due diligence of lawyers in the City Attorney’s Office. She’s become a pain in the butt for the political establishment on a number of levels.

Independently of Lopez, her husband, Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe, has issued some decisions and observations from the bench lately that should snap lawyers in the City Attorney’s office to attention. The other day in a related hearing involving the status of the controversial $400,000 taxpayer-paid driveway for Manny Moutinho’s Stratford mansion, the judge asked an underling of City Attorney Mark Anastasi, “Why did Mr. Anastasi make the decision to put in the driveway when the appeal (brought by Stratford property owners) was pending?” Judge Radcliffe had ruled previously city taxpayers had no obligation to cover the cost of Moutinho’s driveway for a municipally owned airport improvement plan, the one that got Airport Manager John Ricci fired for what the city claimed was Ricci withholding the extent of his relationship with the developer. Ricci disputes the city’s position.

Judge Radcliffe did not say so in open court, but perhaps the judge was indicating maybe the city fired the wrong guy.

Hmmm, what dinner conversation must be like in the Radcliffe-Lopez Black Rock household.



  1. You just can’t make this stuff up!
    Keep their feet to the fire Judge Radcliffe!
    Who’s responsible for Driveway-Gate’s underground utilities? Bridgeport taxpayers?

  2. Fabulous! Hopefully, this effort and a big one no doubt, will be considered alongside the numerous other efforts and prove to be the tipping point in the laborious effort to turn all concerned eyes to focus on the prize; our great City. Many thanks to judges Lopez and Radcliffe. Many thanks as well to the other parties who are relentlessly pursuing these efforts as well. You all have our gratitude.

  3. At some point in grammar school we were made aware a potentially effective government of the people, by the people and for the people might consist of three branches of government: the executive, legislative and judiciary, each performing their duties and responsibilities under a rule of law.

    At the municipal level, specifically Only In Bridgeport, what we observe is an executive branch that tramples the meaning of best employment rules and practices, that violates Charter Budget provisions such that no one can efficiently monitor City financial status, and ignores opportunities to listen and respond to the public.
    Budgets are made, appropriations are spent, deficits are run and ordinances meant to govern purchasing practices and provide public information are not remembered or obeyed. Only in Bridgeport.

    So the citizenry depends on the judicial branch to return some order, to project some adult responsibility to the public scene. On Tuesday evening October 15 the Budget & Appropriations Committee will hold a monthly meeting. As of one day ago, there was no public monthly financial report at the City Clerk office for the current 2013-14 year. That means that revenues, expenses and variances for July, August, September and our current month October are all a secret from us taxpayers. (To be fair, the month of October is still open, and September is not due for two more weeks, the 4th Friday following a month according to our Charter.) The point to understand is the Budget & Appropriations Committee is in no better position today to monitor, provide oversight or serve as a financial check and balance than was true a decade ago when they made a ‘halting step’ towards consulting on how to improve. Stuck in the mud of conflicts of interest, inadequate information to make serious financial decisions, and reports that are restricted in timeliness, focus and availability to the public. Shame on the Council, but all terms are up for your remediation in November.
    Those 20 district representatives who “serve” as Council members have no support in their work other than that offered by the administration. They do not publicly decry their situation. Is that ignorance, conflicted interest, or exhaustion from the struggle? Time will tell.

  4. I don’t blog as often as I’m tempted to, but I can’t resist thanking my long-time friend Carmen Lopez for staying the course. Every time I think about the night I proudly nominated her for a seat on the Board of Education, and her nomination fell short of the necessary votes, I question the ability of the Bridgeport Town Committee to make sound decisions when fulfilling their role to nominate qualified candidates to elected office. I’m a member of the TC representing the 132nd district, and it frustrates me to sit through these sessions watching the “rubber stamp” process at its best. Thank you Carmen, please keep up your good work.

      1. I was removed from the 132nd district by Lisa at the behest of Mario because I wasn’t “rubber stamping” for them. The excuse was I missed too many meetings (one, and I gave a fellow member my proxy for that meeting). Lisa, on the other hand, missed several meetings that year with no proxy for her vote.


Leave a Reply