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Substitute Senate Bill No. 129

Public Act No. 04-159

AN ACT CONCERNING REGIONAL PROBATE COURT SERVICES FOR CHILDREN'S MATTERS.

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

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) For the purposes of this section, "children's matters" means guardianship matters under sections 45a-603 to 45a-625, inclusive, of the general statutes, termination of parental rights matters under sections 45a-706 to 45a-719, inclusive, of the general statutes, adoption matters under sections 45a-724 to 45a-733, inclusive, 45a-736 and 45a-737 of the general statutes, claims for paternity under section 46b-172a of the general statutes, emancipation matters under sections 46b-150 to 46b-150e, inclusive, of the general statutes and voluntary admission matters under section 17a-11 of the general statutes, as amended.

(b) The Probate Court Administrator shall, within available resources, establish a regional children's court pilot program in a single region that shall consist of the probate districts of New Haven, Branford, East Haven, Hamden, Milford, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, West Haven and Woodbridge. In establishing such pilot program, the Probate Court Administrator shall consult with the probate judges of such districts, each of whom may participate in such pilot program on a voluntary basis. Within the region designated under this subsection, the Probate Court Administrator may establish a regional children's court in (1) any existing probate court facility within a district located in the region, or (2) a separate facility located in the region as may be designated by the Probate Court Administrator. The regional children's court shall be established and operated with the advice of the participating probate judges of such districts and the administrative judge appointed under subsection (d) of this section. Such participating probate judges and administrative judge shall serve as the judges of the regional children's court, except as provided in subdivision (1) of subsection (d) of this section. Such judges shall hear and determine all children's matters as may come before them on a docket separate from other probate matters.

(c) The Probate Court Administrator may, subject to the provisions of section 45a-84 of the general statutes, expend moneys from the Probate Court Administration Fund established under section 45a-82 of the general statutes, as amended, to pay for necessary improvements of a facility designated as the regional children's court under subsection (b) of this section, to pay operating expenses of the regional children's court and to reimburse participating towns or cities for any costs of leasing office space for the regional children's court, and any necessary improvements thereto, and for expenses under subsection (d) of this section.

(d) (1) The Probate Court Administrator, with the advice of the participating probate judges of the districts set forth in subsection (b) of this section, shall appoint an administrative judge for the regional children's court. The administrative judge shall be a probate judge at the time of such appointment. If the administrative judge ceases to serve as a probate judge after such appointment, the administrative judge may continue to serve as administrative judge at the pleasure of the Probate Court Administrator, but shall not have the powers granted to an elected probate judge and shall not hear and determine children's matters before the regional children's court. Subject to the approval of the Chief Court Administrator, the Probate Court Administrator shall fix the compensation of the administrative judge and such compensation shall be paid from the fund established under section 45a-82 of the general statutes, as amended. Such compensation, together with the administrative judge's compensation as a probate judge of the district to which he or she was elected, shall not exceed the compensation provided under subsection (k) of section 45a-92 of the general statutes. The administrative judge shall have such benefits as may inure to him or her as a probate judge and shall receive no additional benefits, except for compensation provided under this section.

(2) The administrative judge shall be responsible for the management of cases, coordination of social services, staff, financial management and record keeping for the regional children's court. The administrative judge may, with the approval of the Probate Court Administrator, purchase furniture, office supplies, computers and other equipment and contract for services that the administrative judge may deem necessary or advisable for the expeditious conduct of the business of the regional children's court. Such expenses shall be paid for pursuant to section 45a-8 of the general statutes, as amended. If a separate facility for the regional children's court is established pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (b) of this section, the participating town or city shall be reimbursed for such expenses from the Probate Court Administration Fund upon presentation of vouchers to the Probate Court Administrator.

(e) The administrative judge for the regional children's court may, with the approval of the Probate Court Administrator, employ such persons as may be required for the efficient operation of the regional children's court. Such employees shall be employees of the regional children's court and shall be entitled to the benefits of probate court employees under chapter 801 of the general statutes. Such employees shall not be deemed to be state employees.

(f) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection: (A) Any probate court within the region designated under subsection (b) of this section may transfer children's matters to the regional children's court; and (B) the regional children's court may accept transfers and referrals of children's matters from probate courts within the region.

(2) No new children's matters shall be transferred or referred to or filed with the regional children's court on or after July 1, 2007. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to affect the power of the judges of the regional children's court to hear and decide, or exercise continuing jurisdiction over, children's matters brought before the regional children's court prior to said date.

(g) The regional children's court shall be considered a probate court for the purposes of chapter 801 of the general statutes.

(h) The Probate Court Administrator shall establish policies and procedures to implement the pilot program established under this section. On or before January 3, 2007, the Probate Court Administrator shall submit a report concerning the operation and effectiveness of such pilot program, including any recommendations for the continuation and expansion of such pilot program, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the judiciary, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes.

Approved June 1, 2004