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Catherine Roraback, at 87; pioneering lawyer in Conn.

SALISBURY, Conn. - Catherine Roraback, a pioneering lawyer who was among the founders of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, died this week at a local retirement home, according to family members.

She was 87.

Ms. Roraback, a longtime resident of Canaan, died in her sleep of undisclosed causes Wednesday night at Noble Horizons in Salisbury, family members told the Republican-American newspaper.

Some of the cases Ms. Roraback litigated led to landmark rulings establishing privacy rights and the right of access to contraception.

Ms. Roraback, who described her work as protecting the rights of "dissenters and the dispossessed," also defended the Black Panthers in New Haven and civil rights workers in Mississippi.

"She was a woman who was ahead of her time in so many ways," said state Senator Andrew W. Roraback, a Goshen Republican and her cousin. "While she had a substantial national profile, her heart was always in Litchfield County and specifically in Canaan."

Until earlier this year, she reported to her law office in the Canaan practice that her grandfather Alberto Roraback founded in 1872.

In her most famous case, Ms. Roraback received a favorable ruling in 1965 from the US Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, which established the right to contraceptives and privacy.

Ms. Roraback was a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and Yale University Law School, where she was the only woman in her class.

In addition to helping found the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union in 1948, she was a former president of the National Lawyers Guild and served on the American Civil Liberties Union's board. She also was a member of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame.

The family plans a public memorial service at 2 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Music Mountain in Falls Village.

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