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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Founded in 1784, the Connecticut Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.

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


Jurisdiction

The Connecticut Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over cases decided in lower courts within the state. The court also has direct appellate jurisdiction over any state statute that may be considered invalid and convictions of capital felonies. Over each two year period, as a general rule, the Connecticut Supreme Court meets eight times in sessions lasting approximately two weeks.[1]

Judicial selection

See also: Judicial selection in Connecticut

Judges are selected using the commission selection, political appointment method, where the Judicial Selection Commission forwards a list of candidates to the Governor. The Governor of Connecticut then appoints a candidate who must then be confirmed by the Connecticut General Assembly. Justices serve renewable eight year terms. According to Section 51-1b of the Connecticut General Statutes, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the "head of the Judicial Branch and is responsible for its administration."[1] There is a mandatory retirement age of 70 for the Supreme Court. The only time that this is not followed is the use of judge trial referees, those "who have been designated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to hear certain cases." However, a divided Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in 2009 to uphold a state law saying that a judge reaching the age of 70 may complete work on cases that were begun prior to the age of mandatory retirement.[2]

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.[3]

Qualifications

Minimum qualifications for appointment to the court are:

  • Under the age of 70 at time of appointment.
  • Licensed to practice law in Connecticut.

Removal of justices

Justices may be removed in one of three ways:

  • Judges may impeached by the Connecticut House of Representatives and removed by two thirds of the Connecticut State Senate.
  • Judges may be removed by the governor on the address of two thirds of each house of the Connecticut General Assembly.
  • Following a misconduct investigation by the Connecticut Judicial Review Council. If the investigation indicates that there is probable cause that the judge is 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 judge from office.[4][5]

Caseloads

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

[6][7]

Notable decisions

Ethics

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.[8]

History of the court

The Connecticut Supreme Court building

The court is the direct descendant of the Superior Court of Errors, which was established in 1784. From its inception, the Superior Court of Errors became the highest appellate tribunal and enjoyed powers previously held by the General Assembly, such as the prerogative to review lower court cases based on writs of error. However, it wasn't until 1818, when Connecticut's first constitution was adopted, that three separate and distinct branches of government were created. The judicial branch, now an official entity, consisted of a Supreme Court of Errors, a Superior Court, and inferior courts that would be determined based upon legislative decree.[9]

Before statehood

"The first judicial procedures probably began in the spring of 1636, thanks to a commission granted to eight Connecticut leaders by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay. [9] Two years later, this same General Court (later recognized as the General Assembly) would establish the Particular Court (sometimes referred to as the Quartet Court, as it was required to meet four times per annum). At this point in Connecticut history, the General Court controlled the administration of justice. The Particular Court was the chief judicial body until 1662 when the colonies of New Haven and Connecticut merged together under an official Charter from Charles II. In 1668, with the Charter as colony's governing document, the Particular Courts were abolished and two new tiers of courts were established in its place: the Court of Assistants in 1665 and county courts in 1668. The Appellate Court system would last until 1711. Having been abolished, its powers of original and appellate jurisdiction were transferred to the newly created Superior Court. The Superior Court established in that year is considered the forerunner to the sole trial court of general jurisdiction in existence today."[9]

Statehood and beyond

In 1855, the county courts established under Charles II's Charter were abolished and transferred to the Superior Courts. The Superior Court caseload grew significantly; to meet this judicial burden, the General Assembly created a collection of Courts of Common Pleas.[9]

Changes in early 1900s

In 1921, Connecticut's trial courts was established. "Eighteen years later, a trial justice system would be created, and the powers formerly held by all justices of the peace (i.e. limited criminal jurisdiction), were transferred to "specially designed trial justices" and in 1942, a state-wide Juvenile Court was created."[9]

Notable firsts

  • Justice Ellen Ash Peters was the first female justice appointed to the court in 1978, as well as the first female Chief Justice in 1984.[10]
  • Justice Robert D. Glass was the first African-American appointed to the court in 1987.[11]

See also

External links

References

Connecticut Supreme CourtConnecticut Appellate CourtConnecticut Superior CourtConnecticut Probate CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of ConnecticutUnited States Court of Appeals for the Second CircuitConnecticut countiesConnecticut judicial newsConnecticut judicial electionsJudicial selection in ConnecticutConnecticutConnecticutTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg