Attorney Rachel M. Baird
Ms. Baird opened her law office in January of 2001 focused on representing individuals. Whether defending a client charged with committing a crime or filing suit in civil court to remedy a violation of a client's civil rights, Ms. Baird approaches each case and issue with creativity and assertiveness from the perspective of a passionate advocate for the individual.
Following her graduation from Yale Law School in 1992, Ms. Baird worked as an assistant attorney general and then as an assistant state's attorney representing the state of Connecticut in civil and criminal matters, respectively. Her background includes graduation from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, during a six year enlistment in the United States Air Force. While in the military, Ms. Baird began her undergraduate education at the University of Maryland, European Campus, in Germany. She continued her education at the University of South Carolina when she was transferred to Shaw Air Base, in Sumter, South Carolina. After an honorable discharge from the military, Ms. Baird completed a degree in International Studies, magna cum laude, at the University of South Carolina and applied to Yale Law School.
Ms. Baird's background, education, and work experience all contributed and prepared her to represent individuals. She is familiar with the government through her service in the military and employment as a prosecutor.
Since opening her office in Torrington, Ms. Baird has represented individuals charged with crimes throughout Connecticut in its Part A (most serious crimes) and Part B state courts. She has filed federal civil actions against companies, agencies, and towns including The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. , Rite Aid of Connecticut, Advance Auto Parts, the Connecticut State Department of Motor Vehicles, the New Haven Board of Education, the Connecticut Board of Trustees of Community-Technical Colleges, the City of Torrington, the City of Norwalk, the Town of Westport, Friendly's Ice Cream Corporation, the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, and the Connecticut State Department of Public Safety (now known as the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection).
In 2007, when M. Peter Kuck, the longest serving member of Connecticut's Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, retained Ms. Baird to file an action challenging on due process grounds the delay period between the revocation or denial of a handgun permit and an opportunity for hearing before the Board, Ms. Baird's practice was in civil rights, criminal defense, and general trial litigation. Shortly after she accepted Mr. Kuck's case, James F. Goldberg was arrested at a Chili's restaurant in Glastonbury for open carry of a handgun. Through these cases and others brought to her office, she became aware of the clarity lacking in Connecticut's firearms laws and its chilling effect on the lawful conduct of firearms owners. In 2008 another case followed, involving Connecticut's Risk Warrant statute which allows law enforcement to obtain a warrant to seize firearms when a person poses an imminent danger to himself or others. By statute (and the Fourth Amendment) the warrant precedes the seizure; in practice, however, law enforcement first takes the firearms by "voluntary consent" or for "safekeeping" and then, only after the unlawful seizure, obtains a warrant to "seize" the firearms from the department's evidence room. A Connecticut appellate court condoned this practice in a 2010 decision causing confusion among law enforcement and havoc in the courts that Ms. Baird often uses to challenge Risk Warrants on procedural grounds.
From the inception of her firearms practice with the two cases of Kuck v. Danaher and Goldberg v. Glastonbury she has approached firearms issues in the context of civil rights. With the Heller and McDonald decisions in 2008 and 2010, respectively, this approach ostensibly gained viability. In practice, the weight of individual, constitutional rights when compared to government interests is often minimized by the three branches of government. Ms. Baird's firearms practice has evolved into what has been termed in passing conversation by one nationally-known and recognized constitutional rights attorney as a "street-level" firearms practice. Impact has been tangible in the practice's street-level representation of individuals, especially when law enforcement changes their practices as a result. As the firearms practice has grown and added these cases of interest, so has the ability to reach the media in presenting defined, particularized government conduct that every firearms owner can relate to as potentially impacting his or her life.
The confiscation of firearms by local law enforcement authorities and the state police is an issue in Connecticut that presents itself in many forms and often must be handled and resolved immediately. Firearms owners have many concerns. The implementation of the new requirements for firearm and high-capacity magazine registration, new permits and certificates for long gun and ammunition purchases, the lack of clarity regarding the new laws, especially laws concerning government-designated assault weapons, the focus by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on Federal Firearms Licensees, and the heightened scrutiny given any firearms-related case and arrest in Connecticut courts mean that individual firearms owners' needs range from prevention, education, out-of-court contacts with the government, and representation in formal proceedings to oversight and pressure on law enforcement to follow the law in everyday contacts with firearms owners.
The often reactive and thought-deficient making, enforcement, and interpretation of firearms laws in Connecticut by the three branches of government create an unlimited territory of opportunities for a knowledge- and experience-based firearms practice to counter the resources and authority of the government with creativity and intellect on behalf of individuals at the street-level all in an effort to compel law enforcement to follow the law.
Ms. Baird represents individuals in criminal and civil courts throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts and has argued appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. She is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs to represent veterans in agency proceedings. The National Rifle Association Civil Rights Defense Fund have funded three cases filed by Ms. Baird in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.
In addition to her admission to the Connecticut Bar, Ms. Baird is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. She is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and the District of Massachusetts. In 2005, the Connecticut Bar Foundation selected Ms. Baird to the James W. Cooper Fellows program which requires "demonstrated superior legal ability and devotion to the welfare of the community, state, and nation, as well as to the advancement of the legal profession. "