Catherine G. Roraback papers, 1900-2010, undated

Emory University

Emory Law Archives

Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library

1301 Clifton Road

Atlanta, GA 30322


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Descriptive Summary

Creator: Roraback, Catherine G., 1920-2007.
Title: Catherine G. Roraback papers, 1900-2010, undated
Call Number:L-028
Extent: 31.43 linear ft. (18 boxes) and 19 oversized papers (OP)
Abstract:Papers of attorney and civil rights activist Catherine G. Roraback including correspondence, printed material, notes, photographs, and memorabilia.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access. A small amount of material in Series 2: Case Files and Legal Documents is restricted based on the principle of confidentiality in the context of attorney-client privilege.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Related Materials in This Repository

Feminism and Legal Theory Project Records, L-015.


Gift, 2012.


[after identification of item(s)], Catherine G. Roraback Papers, Emory Law Archives, Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library, Emory University.


Processed by Joanna C.D. Rogers, 2012.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Catherine G. Roraback (1920-2007), attorney and civil liberties activist. She was born to the Rev. Albert and Gertrude Dittmars Roraback in Brooklyn, New York on September 17, 1920. Her father, a Congregational minister, came from a family of lawyers in Litchfield County, Connecticut. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1941 with a degree in economics. In 1948 she graduated from Yale Law School, where she was the only woman in her class.

Roraback developed a civil and criminal trial practice in New Haven, Connecticut and later in Canaan, Connecticut, where she took over her uncle's practice upon his death in 1955. She helped to found the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union in 1948 and acted as legal counsel to Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. She was also active in the National Lawyers Guild, and she served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

During her 50 year career, she litigated several major cases, including Griswold v. Connecticut, which overturned a Connecticut law that banned the prescription and use of contraceptives. Griswold established a constitutional right to privacy, and it laid the foundation for the landmark abortion rights case of Roe v. Wade.

In 1971 she defended Ericka Huggins, a Black Panther Party member accused of murdering a fellow party member in New Haven. Huggins was freed when a mistrial was declared because the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict; they had voted 10-2 for acquittal. Shortly thereafter, in 1974, Roraback defended Peter Reilly, a young Connecticut man, on a charge of murdering his mother. Roraback demonstrated that some of the evidence against Reilly was illegally obtained, and she was able to form the basis of an appeal which granted Reilly a new trial. This high-profile case revealed many abuses by the Connecticut State Police.

Roraback received many honors throughout her career, including awards from the National Abortion Rights Action League, Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, and the Connecticut National Organization for Women. She was inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame in 2001.

Catherine Roraback died on October 17, 2007 in Salisbury, Connecticut.

Scope and Content Note

The Catherine G. Roraback papers include correspondence, printed material, notes, photographs, and memorabilia dating from 1900-2004. The bulk of the collection is collected printed material related to the Black Panthers and the trial of Ericka Huggins. Printed material from the 1970s pro-choice campaigns conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union is also present. There is relatively little material on the birth control cases of the late 1950s and early 1960s, but the collection contains some correspondence about Griswold v. Connecticut and Trubek v. Ullman.

Arrangement Note

Organized into eight series: (1) Biographical material, (2) Case Files and Legal Documents, (3) New Haven Black Panther Trials, (4) Publications, (5) Subject Files, (6) Photographs, (7) Awards and Collected Material, and (8) Audiovisual Material.

Description of Series