Court Cases; Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report

July 20, 2000





By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney

You asked whether the legislature could compel the attendance of a Superior Court judge at a legislative hearing. Our office is not authorized to render legal opinions and this report should not be considered one.

The constitution, statutes, and case law do not explicitly deal with this precise question. But, it appears the legislature has the authority to compel a judge's attendance at a legislative hearing and, absent some extraordinary circumstances, a judge would have to comply.

The Senate president, House speaker, and committee chairmen have the authority to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses by subpoena (CGS 2-46). The language of this statute appears to cover everyone. There is nothing to suggest that this subpoena power does not reach judges.

The constitutional provisions relating to judges contain no language suggesting they are immune from or otherwise privileged in connection with a legislative subpoena. This is in contrast to the explicit protection the constitution gives legislators from civil process during any legislative session (Article Four, Section 15). Furthermore, no statute explicitly gives immunity or some other type of a privilege or protection to a judge concerning a legislative subpoena.

We found one example where the legislature subpoenaed a Superior Court judge. According to Carrie Vibert of the Program Review and Investigations Committee her chairmen subpoenaed Judge Ann Dranginis in February of 1988 for a public hearing. Vibert said the judge did not challenge the subpoena.

A judge might raise a possible challenge based on Article Second of the state's constitution. This article mandates that the power of government be divided into three distinct departments -- the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. This is often referred to as the separation of powers provision.

The Supreme Court has held that the legislature violates this provision when it tries to exercise a power that lies exclusively under the control of the courts or when it significantly interferes with the orderly conduct of the Superior Court's judicial functions (Bartholomew v. Schweizer, 217 Conn. 671 (1991)).

A subpoena might be viewed as a significant interference with the Superior Court under certain extraordinary circumstances. One example might be if the legislature tried to compel a judge who was presiding over a lengthy and complicated murder trial that had a sequestered jury to come to the legislature during the trial. Another example might be if the legislature subpoenaed 10 or 20 judges to appear at the same time for a hearing that could last several days.