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Substitute Senate Bill No. 230

Public Act No. 04-142

AN ACT CONCERNING PROBATE COURT ADMINISTRATION AND PROCEEDINGS AND INCREASING THE NUMBER OF JUSTICES OF THE PEACE IN MERIDEN.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 45a-25 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

(a) A judge of probate shall not appear as attorney in any contested matter in any court of probate.

(b) For the purposes of subsection (a) of this section, a matter before a court of probate is a contested matter when any party to such matter informs the court, orally or in writing, of any objection or opposition in such matter, without regard to the apparent merit or lack of merit of such objection or opposition.

Sec. 2. Section 45a-623 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

In any proceeding under sections 45a-603 to 45a-622, inclusive, that is contested, the Court of Probate shall, upon motion of any party other than a party who made application for the removal of a parent as a guardian, under rules adopted by the judges of the Supreme Court, transfer the case to the Superior Court. In addition to the provisions of this section, the Court of Probate may, on the court's own motion or that of any interested party, transfer [the case] any proceeding under sections 45a-603 to 45a-622, inclusive, to another judge of probate, which judge shall be appointed by the Probate Court Administrator from a panel of qualified probate judges who specialize in children's matters. Such panel shall be proposed by the Probate Court Administrator and approved by the executive committee of the Connecticut Probate Assembly. [The location of the hearing shall be in the original court of probate, except upon agreement of all parties and the Department of Children and Families, where applicable. ] If the case is transferred and venue altered, the clerk of the Court of Probate shall transmit to the clerk of the Superior Court, or the probate court to which the case was transferred, the original files and papers in the case.

Sec. 3. Section 45a-650 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

(a) At any hearing for involuntary representation, the court shall receive evidence regarding the condition of the respondent, including a written report or testimony by one or more physicians licensed to practice medicine in the state who have examined the respondent within thirty days preceding the hearing. The report or testimony shall contain specific information regarding the disability and the extent of its incapacitating effect. The court may also consider such other evidence as may be available and relevant, including, but not limited to, a summary of the physical and social functioning level or ability of the respondent, and the availability of support services from the family, neighbors, community [,] or any other appropriate source. Such evidence may include, if available, reports from the social work service of a general hospital, municipal social worker, director of social service, public health nurse, public health agency, psychologist, coordinating assessment and monitoring agencies, or such other persons as the court deems qualified to provide such evidence. The court may waive the requirement that medical evidence be presented if it is shown that the evidence is impossible to obtain because of the absence of the respondent or his or her refusal to be examined by a physician or that the alleged incapacity is not medical in nature. If [this] such requirement is waived, the court shall make a specific finding in any decree issued on the petition stating why medical evidence was not required. In any matter in which the Commissioner of Social Services seeks the appointment of a conservator pursuant to chapter 319dd and represents to the court that an examination by an independent physician, psychologist or psychiatrist is necessary to determine whether the elderly person is capable of managing his or her personal or financial affairs, the court shall order such examination unless the court determines that such examination is not in the best interests of the elderly person. The court shall order such examination notwithstanding any medical report submitted to the court by the elderly person or the caretaker of such elderly person. Any medical report filed with the court pursuant to this subsection shall be confidential.

(b) Upon the filing of an application for involuntary representation pursuant to section 45a-648, the court may issue an order for the disclosure of the medical information required pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

[(b)] (c) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 45a-7, the court may hold the hearing on the application at a place within the state other than its usual courtroom if it would facilitate attendance by the respondent.

[(c)] (d) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent is incapable of managing his or her affairs, the court shall appoint a conservator of his or her estate unless it appears to the court that such affairs are being managed properly without the appointment of a conservator. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent is incapable of caring for himself or herself, the court shall appoint a conservator of his or her person unless it appears to the court that the respondent is being cared for properly without the appointment of a conservator.

[(d)] (e) When determining whether a conservator should be appointed and in selecting a conservator to be appointed for the respondent, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the respondent. In making such determination, the court shall consider whether the respondent had previously made alternative arrangements for the care of his or her person or for the management of his or her affairs, including, but not limited to, the execution of a valid durable power of attorney, the appointment of a health-care agent or other similar document. The respondent may, by oral or written request, if at the time of the request he or she has sufficient capacity to form an intelligent preference, nominate a conservator who shall be appointed unless the court finds the appointment of the nominee is not in the best interests of the respondent. In such case, or in the absence of any such nomination, the court may appoint any qualified person, authorized public official or corporation in accordance with subsections (a) and (b) of section 45a-644.

[(e)] (f) Upon the request of the respondent or his or her counsel, made within thirty days of the date of the decree, the court shall make and furnish findings of fact to support its conclusion.

[(f)] (g) If the court appoints a conservator of the estate of the respondent, it shall require a probate bond. The court may, if it deems it necessary for the protection of the respondent, require a bond of any conservator of the person appointed [hereunder] under this section.

[(g)] (h) The court may limit the powers and duties of either the conservator of the person or the conservator of the estate, to include some, but not all, of the powers and duties set forth in subsections (a) and (b) of section 45a-644 [,] and sections 45a-655 and 45a-656, and shall make specific findings to justify such a limitation, in the best interests of the ward. In determining whether or not any such limitations should be imposed, the court shall consider the abilities of the ward, the prior appointment of any attorney-in-fact, health care agent, trustee or other fiduciary acting on behalf of the ward, any support services which are otherwise available to the ward, and any other relevant evidence. The court may modify its decree upon any change in circumstances.

Sec. 4. Subsection (b) of section 45a-654 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

(b) Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, an appointment of a temporary conservator shall not be made unless a report is presented to the judge, signed by a physician licensed to practice medicine or surgery in this state, stating: (1) That the physician has examined [such person] the respondent and the date of such examination, which shall not be more than three days prior to the date of presentation to the judge; (2) that it is the opinion of the physician that the respondent is incapable of managing his or her affairs or of caring for himself or herself; and (3) the reasons for such opinion. Any physician's report filed with the court pursuant to this subsection shall be confidential. The court may issue an order for the disclosure of the medical information required pursuant to this subsection.

Sec. 5. Subsection (c) of section 45a-660 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

(c) The court shall review each conservatorship at least every three years [,] and shall either continue, modify or terminate the order for conservatorship. The court shall receive and review written evidence as to the condition of the ward. The conservator, the attorney for the ward and a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state [,] shall each submit a written report to the court within forty-five days of the court's request for such report. If the ward is unable to request or obtain an attorney, the court shall appoint an attorney. If the ward is unable to pay for the services of the attorney, the reasonable compensation of such attorney shall be established by, and paid from funds appropriated to, the Judicial Department. [, however, if] If funds have not been included in the budget of the Judicial Department for such purposes, such compensation shall be established by the Probate Court Administrator and paid from the Probate Court Administration Fund. The physician shall examine the ward within the forty-five-day period preceding the date of submission of [his] the physician's report. Any physician's report filed with the court pursuant to this subsection shall be confidential. The court may issue an order for the disclosure of medical information required pursuant to this subsection.

Sec. 6. Subsection (g) of section 45a-715 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

(g) Before a hearing on the merits in any case in which a petition for termination of parental rights is contested in a court of probate, the court of probate shall, on the motion of any legal party except the petitioner, or may on its own motion or that of the petitioner, under rules adopted by the judges of the Supreme Court, transfer the case to the Superior Court. In addition to the provisions of this section, the probate court may, on the court's own motion or that of any interested party, transfer [the] any termination of parental rights case to another judge of probate, which judge shall be appointed by the Probate Court Administrator from a panel of qualified probate judges who specialize in children's matters. Such panel shall be proposed by the Probate Court Administrator and approved by the executive committee of the Connecticut Probate Assembly. [The location of the hearing shall be in the original probate court, except upon agreement of all parties and the Department of Children and Families, where applicable. ] If the case is transferred, the clerk of the [court of probate] Court of Probate shall transmit to the clerk of the [superior court] Superior Court, or the probate court to which the case was transferred, the original files and papers in the case. The [superior court] Superior Court or the probate court to which the case was transferred, upon hearing after notice as provided in sections 45a-716 and 45a-717, may grant the petition as provided in section 45a-717.

Sec. 7. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2004) In any proceeding before a court of probate, the court may issue an order for the disclosure of medical information relevant to the determination of the matter before the court. The order may require the disclosure of such medical information to: (1) The court; (2) any executor, administrator, conservator, guardian or trustee appointed by the court; (3) any attorney representing the individual who is the subject of such medical information; (4) any guardian ad litem for the individual who is the subject of such medical information; (5) any physician, psychiatrist or psychologist who has been ordered by the court to conduct an examination of such individual; or (6) any other party to the proceeding determined by the court to require such medical information in the interests of justice. Any such medical information filed with the court shall be confidential.

Sec. 8. Subsection (b) of section 17a-685 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

(b) The application shall allege that the person is an alcohol-dependent person or a drug-dependent person who is dangerous to himself or herself or dangerous to others when he or she is an intoxicated person or who is gravely disabled. The application shall contain a statement that the applicant has arranged for treatment in a treatment facility. A statement to that effect from such facility shall be attached to the application. [The application shall also be accompanied by] At or before the hearing on the application, there shall be filed with the court a certificate of a licensed physician who has examined the person within two days before submission of the application. The physician's certificate shall set forth the physician's findings, including clinical observation or information, or the person's medical history, in support of the allegations of the application, and a finding of whether the person presently needs and is likely to benefit from treatment, and shall include a recommendation as to the type and length of treatment and inpatient facilities available for such treatment. A physician employed by the private treatment facility to which the person is to be committed is not eligible to be the certifying physician. An application filed by a person other than the certifying physician shall set forth the facts and information upon which the applicant bases his or her allegations and the names and addresses of all physicians. Upon the filing of an application under this section, the court may issue an order for the disclosure of the medical information required pursuant to this subsection.

Sec. 9. Subsection (a) of section 45a-243 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004, and applicable to any motion, application or complaint filed on or after said date):

(a) When any fiduciary has been removed [for cause] by a court of probate, as provided in section 45a-242, the fiduciary may appeal from such order of removal in the manner provided in sections 45a-186 to 45a-193, inclusive. In the event of an appeal from the order of removal taken by the fiduciary who has been removed, the appointment of a successor shall not be stayed by the appeal but shall be a temporary appointment. Such successor fiduciary shall act during the pendency of the appeal and until the appeal is withdrawn or final judgment entered thereon.

Sec. 10. Subsection (a) of section 9-183a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

(a) The number of justices of the peace for each town shall be equal to one-third the number of jurors to which such town is by law entitled, except in the town of Waterbury the number shall be sixty-nine, in the town of Trumbull the number shall be fifteen, in the town of Meriden the number shall be [twenty-three] thirty-six, and in the town of Litchfield the number shall be fifteen; provided any town, by ordinance, may provide for the selection of a lesser number of justices of the peace for such town as herein provided, which shall be not less than fifteen.

Approved May 17, 2004