Monday, September 18, 2006

NEW COLUMN - The Circus Never Left Bridgeport

Tales Of Political Corruption In Connecticut And Throughout The USA
Vol. 1, No. 1

The Circus Never Left Bridgeport

The Cool Justice Report
Sept. 18, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column, excerpted from "Payoff: Tales Of Political Corruption In Connecticut And Throughout The USA," is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

Bridgeport, Connecticut, has been the home of legendary circus promoter P.T. Barnum, a police chief who outwitted the FBI, a socialist mayor who believed God should take care of snow removal because he put it there and my father, Richard T. Meehan Sr.

The city, on the north shore of Long Island Sound, is like the giant bear in the room of Connecticut's moneyed Gold Coast.

Bridgeport was at the epicenter of manufacturing in World War II, boasting such manufacturing giants as General Electric and Remington Arms. It was reputed to be the sixth largest industrial city in the nation. The prosperity that came with this economic success was reflected in the stately homes and expanding entertainment venues. Night clubs and theaters graced the downtown.

After the war, most of the manufacturing jobs were lost to cheaper labor pools in the South and eventually overseas. The large factories were silent, decaying testaments to what the city once was. As the city aged and decayed it became a symbol for the growing phenomenon of white flight and urban blight. Where there were once stately neighborhoods there were now public housing projects, as a growing number of the city's population became dependent on public assistance.

As mayor, Barnum had built a magnificent development in East Bridgeport that surrounded Washington Park. The homes were architectural treasures. As the blight proliferated, Washington Park became home to junkies and drug dealers. The magnificent mansions that ringed it became crack houses and fire hazards. The murder rate increased almost exponentially. The construction of nearby suburban malls led to the eventual closing of the large department stores that graced the downtown. The restaurants and night clubs were gone and the theaters were abandoned. Bridgeport was a dying city.

It was to this evolution in Bridgeport that my dad, Richard T. Meehan Sr., returned from his service in World War II. He met and married my mom and eventually joined the city's police department.

After five years of walking a beat he enrolled at the University of Bridgeport. For five years he worked days and took night classes. Following graduation he attended the University of Connecticut Law School, commuting by train each night for four years. He'd leave books at the Homeport Restaurant on the city's eastside, stopping on his rounds to duck in the back and study.

To some degree, I view politics and the world through the prism of Bridgeport. I grew up watching my dad practice law in Bridgeport - always on the straight and narrow path. Many years later, I would get an inside look at politics as an alderman and then as a defense attorney in what would become the largest municipal corruption case in Connecticut history.

Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Andy Thibault, author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. Website, and Blog,

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