Connecticut Supreme Court

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Connecticut Supreme Court
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Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1784
Salary
Chief:  $184,000
Associates:  $171,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   8 years
Active justices

Chase Rogers  •  Richard Palmer  •  Peter Zarella  •  Richard A. Robinson  •  Carmen E. Espinosa  •  Dennis G. Eveleigh  •  Andrew McDonald  •  

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A tour of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

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 which last approximately two weeks.[1]

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.

Justices

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Chief Justice Chase Rogers2007-2015Gov. Mary Jodi Rell
Justice Richard Palmer1993-2017Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
Justice Peter Zarella2001-2017Gov. John G. Rowland
Justice Richard A. Robinson2013-2022Gov. Dan Malloy
Justice Carmen E. Espinosa2013-2021Gov. Dan Malloy
Justice Dennis G. Eveleigh2010-2018Gov. Mary Jody Rell
Justice Andrew McDonald2013-2021Gov. Dan Malloy


Judicial selection

See also: Judicial selection in Connecticut

Judges are chosen using the commission selection, political 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.[2]

Justices serve for eight-year terms. They must be renominated in order to serve additional terms.[2]

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.[2]

Qualifications

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[3]

Chief justice

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.[3]

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 term remaining on their previous position.[3] 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.[1]

Retention/reappointment

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.

Jurisdiction

The supreme court generally has appellate jurisdiction over cases decided in lower courts within Connecticut, including cases decided by the appellate court.

The court has mandatory jurisdiction over the following types of cases:

  • civil appeals
  • capital criminal appeals
  • criminal appeals
  • judicial discipline matters

The court has discretionary jurisdiction over:

  • civil appeals
  • non-capital criminal appeals
  • administrative agency cases

Caseloads

Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 157 199
2011 145 191
2010 134 207
2009 232 220
2008 262 256
2007 223 229
[4][5][6]

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

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.[7]

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.[8]

Justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court

How cases are decided by the court

On any given day, a panel of five justices will be assigned hear cases. At the discretion of the chief judge, the court may sit en banc to hear a case.[9]

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.[9]

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.[9]

The Connecticut Supreme Court building

Ethics

Judicial conduct

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.

Canon 4: A judge shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.[10]

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.[11]

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

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.[12]

Notable cases

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.[18]

History

  • 1982: An amendment to the state Constitution creates the appellate court to reduce the caseload of the state's supreme court.[19]
  • 1965: In 1965, the court's name was changed from the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors to the Connecticut Supreme Court.[20]
  • 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.)
Connecticut Supreme Court, Hartford CT.jpg

Notable firsts

  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22]

Former justices

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Overview of the Supreme Court," accessed May 15, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Connecticut General Assembly, "CHAPTER 872* JUDGES," accessed June 5, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Connecticut," accessed March 25, 2014
  4. Connecticut Court System, "Connecticut Judicial Branch Biennial Report and Statistics 2010-2012, Supreme Court Movement of Caseload," accessed May 15, 2014
  5. Connecticut Court System, "Biennial Report 2008-2010, Supreme Court Caseload Trends," accessed May 15, 2014
  6. Connecticut Court System, "Biennial Report 2006-2008, Supreme Court Caseload Trends," accessed May 15, 2014
  7. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  8. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Connecticut Practice Book," accessed March 25, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Organization of Connecticut Courts, Supreme Court," accessed March 25, 2014
  10. Connecticut Practice Book, "Code of Judicial Conduct," accessed May 16, 2014
  11. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial selection: Removal of Judges," accessed March 25, 2014
  12. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 The Wall Street Journal, "Conn. court: Lawyers can't be sued for fraud," May 17, 2013
  14. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  15. Supreme Court of Connecticut, "Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health," decided October 28, 2008, accessed March 20, 2014
  16. Oyez, "Kelo v. City of New London," accessed March 25, 2014
  17. Legal Information Institute, "Griswold v. Connecticut," accessed March 20, 2014
  18. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Publications, Booklet about Connecticut's Courts," accessed March 25, 2014
  19. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, "History of the Courts," accessed March 18, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Wikipedia, "Connecticut Supreme Court," accessed March 31, 2014
  21. Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Breaking New Ground Report, "Women Making History 1777-2013," accessed March 20, 2014
  22. 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
  23. Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society, "Justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court," accessed March 20, 2014
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