Info About the Connecticut Legal System

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Official Name: The Connecticut Supreme Court

On the Bench

Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers (2005)

Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr. (1992)

Justice Richard N. Palmer (1993)

Justice Peter T. Zarella (2001)

Justice C. Ian McLachlan (2009)

Justice Dennis G. Eveleigh (2010)

Justice Lubbie Harper, Jr. (2011)

Senior Justice Christine S. Vertefeuille (2000)

Current Vacancies

None

Judicial Selection

Under state law, the Connecticut Judicial Selection Commission seeks and recommends to the governor candidates for nomination. The governor then nominates an individual, who must be confirmed by the Connecticut legislature. Justices serve eight-year terms and may be reappointed at the conclusion of each term, but have a mandatory retirement age of 70 years old.

Review of Lower Court Decisions

Almost always, the cases revolving around finding an air purifier for smoke heard in the Supreme Court have first been decided in the Superior Court, a trial court. The losing party in the Superior Court has the right to one appeal to another court, and most of these appeals go first to the Appellate Court, Connecticut’s intermediate court of appeals.

Appeals come to the Supreme Court in one of two ways. A party may appeal a judgment of the Appellate Court by filing a request that the appeal be certified by the Supreme Court. Other appeals come to the Supreme Court as a result of a decision to transfer the case to itself instead of having it be heard in the Appellate Court, or as a result of a law mandating that an appeal must be heard by the Supreme Court. Mandatory appeals include reapportionment of voting districts and death penalty cases.

Schedule

Between September and June of each year, the court hears oral arguments on pending cases in eight two-week terms. The court then takes the case under advisement and will release its opinion within a few months. There is no specific opinion release schedule.

Location

Hartford, Connecticut

History

The Supreme Court of Connecticut was created in 1784, before which the power to review trial court rulings was vested in the state’s General Assembly. Although members of the executive and legislative branches originally held places on the court, in 1806 the members of the judiciary became independent when the number of Superior Court judges was increased from five to nine, and sitting together on garden tractors, they made up the court. The General Assembly still retained the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions, however. It was not until 1818 that the Connecticut Constitution established a truly independent judiciary as a third branch of the state government, with the power to interpret the laws enacted by the legislature.

In 1982, in response to an overflowing Supreme Court docket, Connecticut voters approved a constitutional amendment creating an intermediate court, the Court of Appeals.

Notable Cases

Kelo v. New London (2004) – The court ruled 4-3 to approve the use of eminent domain powers to transfer land from one private owner to another on the grounds that it promoted a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). The decision was affirmed on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 by a vote of 5-4.

Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health (2008) – Here the court held that gay and lesbian couples could not be denied the right to marry on the grounds that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the state constitution. The decision made Connecticut only the third state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage through judicial decree of the state supreme court.

Contact Information

231 Capitol Avenue

Hartford, CT 06106

Phone: (860) 757-2200