About John Eldred Shields (1912-1981)
Attorney John Eldred Shields served as CBA President from 1979-1980. During his 44-year career in law, he received national recognition as an innovative lawyer. He was the third generation member of his family to practice law.
Attorney Shields was a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 1937. Before becoming CBA President, he was president of the New London County Bar Association (1974-1975) and member of countless association committees and boards. He was a member of the Norwich Board of Finance (1938-40) and Deputy Judge of Norwich City Court (1946-1947). He served as Norwich City Attorney and Prosecuting Attorney from 1947 to 1955. He was a Republican candidate and mayor of Norwich in 1946, Town Counsel from 1949 to 1951, and past president of the Norwich Chamber of Commerce (1966-1972). He also served as president, Norwich Aerie, Fraternal Order of Eagles (1940-1943); Director, Eastern Council, Navy League; member, Newcomen Society in North America; member, Sons of the American Revolution. At the time of his appointment as CBA President, he was senior partner of Shields & Block, Norwich. At the time of his death, he was a past president of the CBA, member of the ABA House of Delegates, member of the House of Delegates of the New England Bar Association, and member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Bar Foundation.
President Shields was a vigorous advocate of the presence of news cameras in Connecticut courthouses and appointed a Task Force on Cameras in the Courtroom. Under his leadership, the Connecticut Lawyer newsletter was expanded to six pages and published from September through June. During this time, the CBA began to publish a four-volume “Lawyer Directory” to be placed in public locations. While Shields was President, the CBA instituted an advertising campaign called “The Law’s On Your Side…And so are we” designed to help the public learn more about the law and how it affects them. As President of the CBA, President Shields invited the media to cover the deliberations of the Board of Governors and House of Delegates meetings with an invitation to the television networks that “most Association activities greatly affect the public interest and welfare and we have nothing to hide.” Representatives of three television networks viewed the November 1979 meeting of the Board of Governors meeting. In 1980, a new CBA dues schedule was established by the Board of Governors, the first raise in five years (first year—waived; years 2 and 3--$45; years 4, 5, and 6--$60; years 7 through 10--$80; 11 or more years--$100; age 75 and older--$60). In its April, 19, 1980 meeting, the House of Delegates reported that there was a budget deficit of $100,000, which would be offset by using reserve funds. The total CBA membership in 1980 was 6,468. During his CBA presidency, Attorney Shields lobbied successively for increases in judges’ compensation. Under his leadership, the CBA and the New London Bar Association both won ABA Law Day awards. At this time, the CBA was able to persuade the ABA to recommend accreditation of the University of Bridgeport Law School. The CBA was also able to persuade the Connecticut legislature to forego an increase in the occupational tax and able to defeat a proposed sales tax on legal services. Following President Shields’ leadership, the CBA held its first long-range planning retreat. Upon President Shields’ death, he was recognized for his keen perceptions, his forceful presentations, and his indefatigable interest and efforts on behalf of the profession of law.
The John E. Shields Award was created in 1981.