New Haven Criminal Defense Attorney Hugh Keefe

Hugh F. Keefe

Attorney / Principal

Hugh F. Keefe has tried civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts since being admitted to the Bar in 1967. Mr. Keefe teaches and has taught Trial Advocacy at the Yale Law School for over 30 years. He was the first lawyer in the United States to be board-certified in both civil and criminal trial advocacy, having received that dual certification from the National Board of Trial Advocacy1 in 1980. He has been re-certified every five years by the NBTA in both fields. On April 25, 2012, he was additionally certified in Civil Pretrial Practice Advocacy, becoming one of only six lawyers in the U. S. certified in three specialties by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification. He is rated* “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell.2 Attorney Keefe has received many professional awards and recognitions during his legal career, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from both his law school and undergraduate college: the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1985 and Quinnipiac University in 1991. In addition, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Quinnipiac University Law School at its commencement on May 9, 2004. In 2007, attorney Keefe was appointed an Associate Fellow of Saybrook College, Yale University.3 Together with Tara Knight, Mr. Keefe co-taught Criminal Procedure during the Fall Semester, 2010, at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Attorney Keefe was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers4 as a Fellow in 1984. In 1990, Mr. Keefe was named by Connecticut Magazine as one of the five “Best Lawyers in Connecticut” and again in 2001 was named by that same magazine as one of the best lawyers in the state. Following a poll of lawyers by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2005, Mr. Keefe was listed by Connecticut Magazine as the “Super Lawyer” with the highest number of votes in the state of Connecticut. Beginning in its July 2006 edition, he has been listed in New York Magazine as one of the best lawyers in the New York area. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since its initial publication in 1983. Mr. Keefe has also been active in the Connecticut Bar Association, having chaired its Officer Nominating Committees in 1999-2000 and in 1997; chaired the Criminal Justice Section from 1979-1982; and has served on the executive committees of the Federal Practice Section and Criminal Justice Section since 1980 and 1975, respectively.

Attorney Keefe has served in various roles in the screening, selection and grievance procedure involving judges. He has served as Chairman of both the Judicial Selection Commission and the Judicial Review Council in the state of Connecticut. He was a charter member of Connecticut’s Judicial Selection Commission from 1986 to 1993. Mr. Keefe was reappointed to the Commission in 2000 and was elected Chairman in 2001. He was reappointed to a three-year term on the Judicial Selection Commission in November 2006. He served on the Judicial Review Council, which deals with grievances filed against state judges, from 1995 to 2000, and as Chairman of the Council from 1997 to 2000. He served as Chairman of the United States District Court’s Magistrate Appointment Committee in 1995 and was a member of the Federal Public Defender Appointment Committee in 2000. In 2011 and 2016, he was appointed to the Merit Selection Committee for the Connecticut Federal Public Defender.

In 1988, Mr. Keefe was appointed a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.5 He was elected a Fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers6 in 1980. He has served as a Special Master in U.S. District Court since 1982. He has served on the Quinnipiac University Board of Trustees since 1994. He was selected as a charter member of the Editorial Board of the Connecticut Law Tribune when that Board was created in 1986 and served on the Board until 2003. On May 23, 2016, at a ceremony in Hartford, he was awarded the Connecticut Law Tribune’s Professional Excellence Award. Mr. Keefe has been a lecturer, panelist and/or moderator at numerous seminars and conferences sponsored by various Bar Associations, law schools, television and radio programs, colleges, Judicial Department training seminars and other groups during virtually his entire career. He has published numerous articles in various legal journals, magazines and newspapers. He is a member of the American, Connecticut and New Haven Bar Associations and the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association.

Mr. Keefe resides in New Haven with his wife, Tara Knight, who is also an attorney and the founder and senior partner of her own law firm in New Haven.

  1. The NBTA is a national Board that certifies attorneys as civil or criminal trial lawyers, or both, after rigorous testing, evaluation, screening and background investigation.
  2. Its highest rating.
  3. Fellows are appointed by Yale’s Council of Masters at the recommendation of the Master of the College.
  4. The American College of Trial Lawyers is a professional association of lawyers skilled and experienced in the trial of cases and dedicated to maintaining and improving standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Only practicing lawyers who are licensed to practice law in the highest courts of their respective states, who have engaged in trial practice for at least fifteen years, and who meet and continue to meet the qualification requirements established by the College are eligible to be Fellows. Not more than 1 percent of the lawyers who are licensed to practice in a state and are actively practicing there may be elected as Fellows.
  5. The American Bar Foundation’s purpose is to improve the administration of justice. Elected Fellows are limited to one-third of one percent of the lawyers in any jurisdiction.
  6. The American Board of Criminal Lawyers was founded in 1978 and is a “national legal honorary society for outstanding criminal trial lawyers for both the defense and prosecution.” Admission to Fellowship is by invitation only and is restricted to lawyers who have tried cases for at least ten years, tried a minimum of fifty criminal jury trials to verdict, thirty five of which were felonies, and at least five of those were cases where the penalty could be death or life imprisonment.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.

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Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Business Litigation
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Divorce Law

Certified Legal Specialties

  • Dual Certification, Civil and Criminal Trial Advocacy, National Board of Trial Advocacy, 1980
  • Civil and Criminal Trial Advocacy, National Board of Trial Advocacy, 1985

Bar Admissions

  • Connecticut, 1967
  • U.S. District Court District of Connecticut, 1968
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1969
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1971
  • U.S. Tax Court, 1982


  • University of Connecticut School of Law, Hartford, Connecticut
  • J.D. - 1967
  • Honors: George J. Sherman Scholar, 1966-1967
  • Quinnipiac College, Hamden, Connecticut
  • B.S. - 1964
  • Honors: Phi Theta Kappa
  • Major: Accounting

Published Works

  • Advocacy and The Criminal Trial Judge, Trial Magazine, July, 1977
  • Dragging the Bar Before Federal Grand Juries, Connecticut Law Tribune, June, 1987
  • Makeup of Jury is Critical When Defense Is Self-Defense, Hartford Courant OP-ED, June 23, 1987
  • In Defense of the Peremptory Jury Challenge, Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, Forum, July, 1987
  • Courts not Always Faithful to Spirit of the Constitution, New Haven Register, 1987

Classes & Seminars

  • Instructor, Trial Advocacy, Yale Law School, 1979

Honors & Awards

  • "AV" by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Connecticut School of Law
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Quinnipiac University
  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
  • One of the Five "Best Lawyers in Connecticut", in Civil Litigation-Defense Connecticut Magazine
  • "Best Lawyers in Connecticut" in Civil Litigation-Defense, Super Lawyers Magazine
  • "Super Lawyer"in Civil Litigation-Defense, Connecticut Magazine, Highest Number of Votes in the State of Connecticut
  • Super Lawyer, Civil Litigation/Criminal Defense, Connecticut Magazine
  • Best Lawyers in the New York Area, New York Magazine
  • "The Best Lawyers in America" in Civil Litigation-Defense
  • Named in Irish America Magazine& Irish Voice Newspaper
  • 100 Irish American Lawyers, United States
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Quinnipiac University Law School
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Fellow, American Board of Criminal Lawyers

Associations & Memberships

  • Connecticut Bar Association, Officer Nominating Committee, Chair, 1999 to 2000
  • Connecticut Bar Association, Officer Nominating Committee, Chair, 1997 to 1997
  • Connecticut Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, Chair, 1979 to 1982
  • Connecticut Bar Association, Executive Committees , 1980 to 1980
  • Connecticut Bar Association, Federal Practice Section & Criminal Justice Section, 1980
  • Connecticut Judicial Selection Commission, Charter Member, 1986 to 1993
  • Judicial Review Council, State of Connecticut, 1995 to 2000
  • Connecticut's Judicial Selection Commission, Charter Member, 1986 to 1993
  • Connecticut's Judicial Selection Commission, Chairman, 2001 to 2001
  • Judicial Review Council, 1995 to 2000
  • Judicial Review Council, Chairman of the Council, 1997 to 2000
  • United States District Court's Magistrate Appointment Committee, Chairman, 1995 to 1995
  • Federal Public Defender Appointment Committee, Member, 2000 to 2000
  • Quinnipiac University Board of Trustees, 1994
  • Connecticut Law Tribune, Editorial Board, 1986
  • American Bar Association, Member
  • Connecticut Bar Association, Member
  • New Haven Bar Association, Member
  • Connecticut Trial Lawyer Association, Member
  • Connecticut Bar Association, Federal Practice Section Executive Committee for the 2018-2019 term

Past Employment Positions

  • Connecticut's Judicial Selection Commission, Charter Member, 00/1986 to 00/1993