Connecticut Supreme Court
|Connecticut Supreme Court|
- 1 Justices
- 2 Judicial selection
- 3 Jurisdiction
- 4 Rules of practice
- 5 Ethics
- 6 Notable cases
- 7 Visiting the court
- 8 History
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
The Connecticut Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort. Although the court was established in 1784, the Connecticut Constitution, which defined the separation of powers in the state's government, was not completed until 1818. Any significant changes in the court must be made by constitutional amendment. The court is made up of one chief justice and six associate justices. During a two-year period, the court meets eight times in sessions that last approximately two weeks.
Article V and Amendment Article XX of the Connecticut Constitution provide the rules and authority of the state's judicial branch, as well as information regarding the selection of justices and term lengths.
JusticesThe current justices of the court are:
|Chief Justice Chase Rogers||2007-2015||Gov. Mary Jodi Rell|
|Justice Richard Palmer||1993-2017||Gov. Lowell Weicker|
|Justice Peter Zarella||2001-2017||Gov. John G. Rowland|
|Justice Richard A. Robinson||2013-2022||Gov. Dan Malloy|
|Justice Carmen E. Espinosa||2013-2021||Gov. Dan Malloy|
|Justice Dennis G. Eveleigh||2010-2018||Gov. Mary Jody Rell|
|Justice Andrew McDonald||2013-2021||Gov. Dan Malloy|
- See also: Judicial selection in Connecticut
Judges are chosen using the assisted appointment method. The judicial selection commission forwards a list of candidates to the governor. The governor nominates a candidate, who must be confirmed by the general assembly.
Justices serve for eight-year terms. They must be renominated in order to serve additional terms.
Justices on the supreme court must retire when they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. However, after reaching 70, a justice may continue to serve as a judge trial referee (also known as a state referee) for the rest of their life. However, they must be renominated, reappointed and continue to meet certain conditions.
Candidates must meet the following minimum qualifications to be eligible to serve on the court:
- Under age 70 at time of appointment
- Licensed to practice law in the state
- Resident of the state
The chief justice may be selected by the judicial selection commission, nominated by the governor and approved by the general assembly. After approval, the term of the chief justice lasts for eight years.
However, the governor may also bypass the commission and simply nominate an associate justice to serve as chief justice. When an associate justice is elevated to the position of chief justice in this manner, for their first term as chief, they will serve the term remaining on their previous position. According to Section 51-1b of the Connecticut General Statutes, the chief justice of the supreme court is also the head administrator of the state's judicial branch.
Justices must be renominated by the governor to continue serving on the court after their term expires. In order to be approved by the general assembly, a nominee must appear before the senate judiciary committee at a hearing. The judiciary committee will make a recommendation and then a vote is taken on whether to approve the nominee to serve an additional term.
The court has mandatory jurisdiction over the following types of cases:
The court has discretionary jurisdiction over:
- Connecticut releases caseload data every two years.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Connecticut was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Connecticut received a score of 0.05. Based on the justices selected, Connecticut was the 21st most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
Rules of practice
The Connecticut Practice Book is available on the judicial branch website. First created in 1978, the book has undergone many revisions since that time. It includes information on: rules of professional conduct, the code of judicial conduct, rules for the superior court and rules of appellate court procedure. The book also contains an appendix of forms and an index of judicial branch forms. The most recent official version of the Connecticut Code of Evidence is also available on the judicial branch website. Both may be printed for free, and printed versions are available for a fee.
- Connecticut Practice Book, 2014 Court Rules
- Connecticut Code of Evidence
- Manual of Style for the Connecticut Courts
- Guidelines for electronic submission of briefs
- Connecticut Judicial Branch Electronic Filing Services
How cases are decided by the court
Parties may not present witnesses or evidence. The court decides cases using court records from the lower courts, briefs prepared by each party and oral argument before the court. During the oral argument, attorneys for the parties may present information from their briefs. The justices may also question attorneys for the parties during oral argument.
Except for matters heard by the probate court, all cases heard by the supreme court begin in superior court. The court reviews cases from the superior court to assure no errors have been made in interpreting or applying the law. Some decisions made by the appellate court may also be reviewed.
Although an appeal of most superior court cases must first be filed in the appellate court, according to state law, some types of cases are appealed directly to the supreme court. These include:
- cases involving a potentially invalid portion of the state constitution or an invalid state statute
- cases where a person has been convicted of a capital felony
However, the supreme court has the authority to take up any case which is filed in the appellate court.
A complete reference which discusses the state's code of judicial conduct in more detail can be found in the Connecticut Practice Guide, which is available online. There are four essential canons of judicial conduct which apply to judges serving on the supreme court and all other state judges in Connecticut.
Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary , and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
Canon 2: A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently and diligently.
Canon 3: A judge shall conduct the judge's personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.
Removal of justices
Justices may be removed in one of three ways:
- A judge or justice may impeached by the state house of representatives with the approval of two-thirds of the state senate.
- The governor may remove a judge or justice with two-thirds approval from each house of the general assembly.
- Following a misconduct investigation by the Connecticut Judicial Review Council. If the investigation indicates there is probable cause that a justice or judge may be guilty of misconduct, the council conducts a hearing and makes a recommendation to the supreme court, who may then choose to suspend or remove the justice or judge from office.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Connecticut earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
|• Flying-log case gets new trial (2015)||Click for summary→|
|William McDermott was a bystander near a Connecticut Department of Transportation worksite where a 55-foot tree was being removed when a log flew through the air, striking his head and causing him to fall backwards onto the sidewalk. The hits to his head were fatal. His estate sued the state and received an award of $1.3 million at a bench trial in 2011. The key issue at trial was whether the workers felling the tree should have foreseen bystanders could be injured generally, and if they could have foreseen McDermott specifically would be injured by walking past their safety cones to converse. The state argued that it should not be responsible as the safety cones were warnings, not demands to stop. Further, the workers were following industry standards in felling the tree, and those same industry standards should apply to bystanders.
The Connecticut Appellate Court overturned the verdict—and award of damages—in 2013 because they found McDermott's death an accident with no one to blame. The estate appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, and in April 2015 a new trial was ordered.
Justice Dennis G. Eveleigh wrote for the court, which found the incident to be reasonably foreseeable.
|• Mentally disabled man gets a new trial in 1987 murder case (2015)||Click for summary→|
|In a 4 to 2 vote, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a 1992 murder conviction, ordering a new trial be conducted.
The defendant, Richard Lapointe, was charged with the murder of his grandmother, Bernice Martin. Lapointe suffers from Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a genetic brain abnormality resulting in water on the brain. Martin was found dead in her home in 1987, which was on fire. Lapointe called the fire department to inform them of the emergency. Inside the home, firefighters found Martin's body, which had been strangled, stabbed 11 times and raped, according to police. Lapointe was arrested and charged with murder after a questionable interrogation; he was also charged with several other offenses, including capital felony murder and sexual assault. Lapointe was ultimately convicted by a jury in 1992, receiving life in prison without the possibility of parole. An appellate court overturned the capital felony murder and sexual assault convictions in 2012. Lapointe appealed the murder conviction, as well, and it reached the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Lapointe's attorneys argued that his mental disability makes him prone to making false statements, including false confessions, and susceptible to suggestion.
Justice Richard Palmer wrote the majority opinion for the court. The case came down to the fact that Lapointe did not receive certain exculpatory evidence that was in the hands of prosecutors during the time he was on trial. That evidence was handwritten notes of a police officer "may have supported an alibi defense." In 1999, the defense team found out about these notes, which indicated that Lapointe's wife at the time told police Lapointe was home at the time the fire started in his grandmother's home. Because the prosecutor was not forthcoming with this evidence, Justice Palmer wrote:
Before she was murdered, Lapointe visited his 88-year-old grandmother every Sunday.
| • Simms v. Seaman||Click for summary→|
|See also: Courtroom Weekly: From gun laws to school searches
The Connecticut Supreme Court cited the doctrine of "absolute immunity" in ruling that lawyers cannot be sued for fraud based on their conduct in court cases.
Bob Simms, a former NFL player and founder of Simms Capital Management Inc., was involved in an ongoing legal battle over divorce proceedings with his ex-wife, Donna Simms, for 30 years. Bob attempted to sue Donna and her lawyers for withholding information about approximately $360,000 in inheritance money that she received in 2006 and 2008. A court order brought the facts of the inheritance to the surface in 2008, but a lower court judge ruled the information had been improperly withheld.
At the supreme court, however, the justices focused on a different issue: whether or not Donna's lawyers were liable for the alleged fraud. The court ruled 5-1 on May 10 that the lawyers could not be sued for fraud, citing the old doctrine of absolute immunity, as well as decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts.
The doctrine of absolute immunity originated in medieval England, as a way to encourage free speaking during court proceedings without fear of future lawsuits. Justice Peter Zarella, in the majority opinion, wrote,
| • Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health||Click for summary→|
|In August 2004, eight gay and lesbian couples, living in the state, sued after being denied marriage licenses by the acting town clerk in Madison, Connecticut. The couples claimed their license applications were denied because they were same-sex couples, which violated their state constitutional rights to due process and equal protection and their rights to intimate expression and association. While their lawsuit was pending, the general asembly passed PA 05-10, commonly referred to as a "civil union law," which stated "marriage" was a term to be used for couples of the opposite sex, and the term "civil unions" was for couples of the same sex. The state supreme court held, by a vote of 4-3, that the state constitution's Equal Protection Clause prohibits the state from denying same-sex couples the right to marry. According to the majority, Connecticut's civil union law was also valid.|
| • Susette Kelo v. City of New London||Click for summary→|
|The court defined the primary issue of the case as whether under state and federal constitutional law, public use clauses permit cities and towns to exercise the power of eminent domain for the purpose of allowing an economic development plan to go forward. Under the authority of eminent domain, the city of New London seized the properties of homeowners and sold it to private developers. The city said developing the land would create jobs and increase tax revenues. Kelo and other homeowners whose property was seized sued the city of New London in state court. The property owners argued the city violated the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, which guaranteed the government would not take private property for public use without fair compensation. The state supreme court found in favor of the city. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who affirmed the state supreme court's ruling. The court said the city was not simply taking the property of private citizens to sell to private developers. Instead, they seized the property to sell as part of an economic development plan which would ultimately benefit the city.|
| • Griswold v. Connecticut||Click for summary→|
|A state law dating back to 1879 made it illegal for anyone to use contraceptives. For nine days in November 1961, Estelle Griswold, who was the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a doctor and professor at Yale Medical School, provided contraceptive devices and information on how to prevent pregnancy at a clinic they opened. Griswold and the doctor were each found guilty of violating the statute and fined $100. The lower court's ruling was affirmed by both the circuit appellate court and the state supreme court (which was still known as the "Connecticut Court of Errors" at the time of the decision.) However, on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the state supreme court's decision, and ultimately found the 1879 statute violated the right to privacy in marriage, which is granted under the Bill of Rights.|
Visiting the court
Visitors can take a tour of the courthouse and observe oral arguments. The Connecticut Judicial Branch provides a schedule of when cases will be heard by the court. The Supreme Court is located at 231 Capitol Avenue in Hartford.
- 1982: An amendment to the state Constitution creates the appellate court to reduce the caseload of the state's supreme court.
- 1965: In 1965, the court's name was changed from the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
- 1818: Connecticut's Constitution is adopted and specifies three different government branches. The Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors and the Connecticut Superior Court are established. The General Assembly is given the power to establish other lower courts.
- 1784: Supreme court of errors is established as Connecticut's highest appellate court, with the power to review lower court decisions by the filing of a writ of error. (During the time period between 1711 and 1784, the General Assembly was responsible for reviewing decisions made in lower courts.)
- Joel Hinman is the court's longest serving justice. He served on the court for 28 years.
- Raymond E. Baldwin served as both the governor of the state and as supreme court justice.
- Ellen Ash Peters was the first female justice appointed to the court in 1978. She was also the first woman to serve as chief justice, in 1984.
- Robert Glass was the first black justice to serve on the supreme court in 1987. He retired from the court in 1992. The juvenile courthouse in Waterbury, Connecticut is named for him.
- Alfred V. Covello served as a supreme court justice between 1987 and 1992. He currently serves as a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, on senior status.
|All former justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court:||click for list →|
|Barry L. Schaller||2007-2008|
|Francis M. McDonald, Jr.||1996-2001|
|Flemming L. Norcott, Jr.||1992-2013|
|Robert I. Berdon||1991-1999|
|David M. Borden||1990-2007|
|T. Clark Hull||1987-1991|
|Alfred V. Covello||1987-1992|
|Robert D. Glass||1987-1992|
|Robert J. Callahan||1985-2000|
|Angelo G. Santaniello||1985-1994|
|Joseph F. Dannehy||1984-1987|
|Anthony E. Grillo||1983-1985|
|David M. Shea||1981-1992|
|Anthony J. Armentano||1981-1983|
|Arthur H. Healey||1979-1990|
|Ellen A. Peters||1978-2000|
|John A. Speziale||1977-1984|
|William P. Barber||1975-1977|
|Joseph S. Longo||1975-1979|
|Herbert S. MacDonald||1972-1977|
|Elmer W. Ryan||1966-1972|
|John R. Thim||1966-1972|
|John P. Cotter||1965-1981|
|Charles S. House||1965-1978|
|James C. Shannon||1965-1966|
|John M. Comley||1963-1965|
|Howard W. Alcorn||1961-1971|
|Abraham S. Bordon||1961-1961|
|William J. Shea||1959-1965|
|James E. Murphy||1957-1966|
|John Hamilton King||1957-1970|
|Edward J. Daly||1954-1959|
|Edward J. Quinlan||1953-1954|
|John A. Cornell||1953-1953|
|Patrick B. O’Sullivan||1950-1957|
|Ernest A. Inglis||1950-1957|
|Raymond E. Baldwin||1949-1963|
|Edwin C. Dickenson||1942-1950|
|Arthur F. Ells||1940-1949|
|Allyn L. Brown||1936-1953|
|Christopher L. Avery||1930-1942|
|John W. Banks||1927-1937|
|George E. Hinman||1926-1940|
|John P. Kellogg||1924-1925|
|Frank D. Haines||1925-1936|
|William M. Maltbie||1925-1950|
|John E. Keeler||1922-1926|
|Lucien F. Burpee||1921-1924|
|Howard J. Curtis||1920-1927|
|William S. Case||1919-1921|
|Edward B. Gager||1918-1922|
|John K. Beach||1913-1925|
|George W. Wheeler||1910-1930|
|Alberto T. Roraback||1908-1919|
|Milton A. Shumway||1917-1918|
|Simeon E. Baldwin||1893-1910|
|Silas A. Robinson||1910-1910|
|John M. Thayer||1907-1917|
|Samuel O. Prentice||1901-1920|
|Frederick B. Hall||1897-1913|
|Edward W. Seymour||1889-1892|
|Augustus H. Fenn||1893-1897|
|Charles Bartlett Andrews||1889-1901|
|Sidney Burr Beardsley||1887-1889|
|Origen Storrs Seymour||1870-1874|
|LaFayette Sabine Foster||1870-1876|
|Miles Tobey Granger||1876-1887|
|Dwight Whitefield Pardee||1873-1890|
|Charles Johnson McCurdy||1863-1867|
|Thomas Belden Butler||1861-1873|
|John Duane Park||1864-1889|
|David Curtis Sanford||1854-1864|
|William Wolcott Ellsworth||1847-1861|
|William Lucius Storrs||1840-1861|
|Roger Minott Sherman||1839-1842|
|Henry Matson Waite||1834-1857|
|Jabez Williams Huntington||1834-1840|
|Thomas Scott Williams||1829-1847|
|John Thompson Peters||1818-1834|
|Stephen Titus Hosmer||1815-1833|
|John Cotton Smith||1809-1811|
|Jeremiah Gates Brainard||1808-1829|
|Stephen Mix Mitchell||1808-1814|
- Courts in Connecticut
- Judicial selection in Connecticut
- Connecticut judicial news
- Connecticut blogs
- News: Connecticut Supreme Court lets UConn keep its donor information private, February 15, 2012
- News: Connecticut Supreme Court takes over redistricting, December 23, 2011
- Connecticut State Judicial Branch, "Connecticut Supreme Court," accessed on May 15, 2014
- Connecticut State Judicial Branch, "Terms of the Connecticut Supreme Court," accessed on May 15, 2014
- Connecticut State Judicial Branch, "Supreme Court opinions," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut Court System, "Connecticut Judicial Branch Biennial Report and Statistics 2010-2012," accessed May 15, 2014
- University of Connecticut, "Colonial Connecticut Records 1636-1776," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut State Library, "Biographical information about Connecticut judges," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut State Judicial Branch, "Virtual tour of the Connecticut Supreme Court building," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut Bar Association, "Judicial Interview Project," accessed May 15, 2014 (timed out)
- Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society, accessed May 15, 2014
- Fox News, "Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case," March 20, 2014
- The Courant, "Court: Horse owners need to protect public from injury," March 29, 2014
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Overview of the Supreme Court," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut General Assembly, "CHAPTER 872* JUDGES," accessed June 5, 2013
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Connecticut," accessed March 25, 2014
- Connecticut Court System, "Connecticut Judicial Branch Biennial Report and Statistics 2012-2014," accessed February 17, 2015
- Connecticut Court System, "Connecticut Judicial Branch Biennial Report and Statistics 2010-2012, Supreme Court Movement of Caseload," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut Court System, "Biennial Report 2008-2010, Supreme Court Caseload Trends," accessed May 15, 2014
- Connecticut Court System, "Biennial Report 2006-2008, Supreme Court Caseload Trends," accessed May 15, 2014
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Connecticut Practice Book," accessed March 25, 2014
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Organization of Connecticut Courts, Supreme Court," accessed March 25, 2014
- Connecticut Practice Book, "Code of Judicial Conduct," accessed May 16, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial selection: Removal of Judges," accessed March 25, 2014
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- Connecticut Law Tribune, "Court Orders New Trial in Flying Log Death Lawsuit," April 24, 2015
- '"Connecticut Law Tribune, "Supreme Court Majority Blames State, Overturns Murder Conviction," April 1, 2015
- The Wall Street Journal, "Conn. court: Lawyers can't be sued for fraud," May 17, 2013
- Supreme Court of Connecticut, "Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health," decided October 28, 2008, accessed March 20, 2014
- Oyez, "Kelo v. City of New London," accessed March 25, 2014
- Legal Information Institute, "Griswold v. Connecticut," accessed March 20, 2014
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Publications, Booklet about Connecticut's Courts," accessed March 25, 2014
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "History of the Courts," accessed March 18, 2014
- Wikipedia, "Connecticut Supreme Court," accessed March 31, 2014
- Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Breaking New Ground Report, "Women Making History 1777-2013," accessed March 20, 2014
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Waterbury juvenile matters courthouse to be named after the Honorable Robert D. Glass," May 16, 2008 accessed March 20, 2014
- Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society, "Justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court," accessed March 20, 2014
|Former||Flemming Norcott • Joette Katz • Barry Schaller • William Sullivan (Connecticut) • Christine Vertefeuille • David Bordon • Ian McLachlan • Lubbie Harper • David M. Borden •|