OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1033 (File 738, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING COURT OPERATIONS.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes a number of unrelated changes in court procedures and operations. Among other things, it:

1. eliminates a requirement that a municipality file a statement with the court indicating that it will pay any final judgment against one of its employees, in certain situations;

2. gives the courts authority to return cases appealing certain municipal decisions to the municipal official, board, or commission that made the decision for further proceedings;

3. allows family support referees to perform marriages and validates certain marriages they performed without this explicit statutory authority;

4. allows a judicial marshal to serve a copy of a capias order (an order to take a person into custody) issued by a court or family support magistrate for a child support obligor found to be in contempt or an obligor or witness who failed to appear at a hearing, when the (a) person is either in the marshal's custody or present in the courthouse where the marshal provides security and (b) judicial marshal or the courts' Support Enforcement Services possesses the original document (currently, judicial marshals can only serve original orders and not copies)( 6);

5. replaces certain provisions requiring a bond or recognizance from a party in a civil action with new provisions prohibiting them, unless a court finds good cause;

6. eliminates the duty of (a) court clerks to file copies of Superior Court decisions with the Reporter of Judicial Decisions; (b) the reporter to select decisions for publication and create digests of them; and (c) the Commission on Official Legal Publications to publish the selected cases and digests (apparently, digests have not been published since the 1980s)( 8, 11-13, & 27);

7. specifies that an alternative format that the commission may use as its sole method to publish, maintain, and distribute official legal publications includes an electronic format (this applies to reports of court cases except the most recent 100 volumes of Connecticut Supreme Court decisions, the Connecticut Law Journal, and the Connecticut Practice Book) and allows use of such an alternate format for all official legal publications and archived legal protections ( 12);

8. eliminates a requirement that the Superior Court judges appoint one skillful stenographer as the official court reporter for the Superior Court in each judicial district and as many stenographers and assistant court reporters as necessary for the courts' business, and instead requires them to appoint court reporters as necessary for the courts' business ( 9);

9. eliminates certain court fees related to civil protection orders;

10. allows someone subject to a restraining or civil protection order to have certain legal documents served on the person protected by the order without being criminally liable for violating the order;

11. requires use of an Office of Chief Court Administrator-prescribed form, rather than one approved by court rules, when notifying victims of a defendant's application to participate in one of the following programs that allow the defendant to avoid a conviction: accelerated rehabilitation, pretrial alcohol education, and pretrial supervised diversion for people with psychiatric disabilities ( 20-22);

12. excludes life insurance benefits from the type of insurance benefits the Office of Victim Services (OVS) or a victim compensation commissioner can consider when determining the appropriate compensation to pay a crime victim;

13. requires the Litchfield Judicial District Superior Court clerk to pay the Warren Cemetery Association treasurer the balance of a fund the clerk holds in trust under a 1917 special act, thus eliminating the clerk's responsibility for the fund; and

14. authorizes two individuals to file claims against the state with the claims commissioner.

*Senate Amendment “A” (1) requires, as a condition of a judicial marshal serving a copy of a capias order, that the marshal of Support Enforcement Services possesses the original document; (2) adds the provision on the Commission on Official Legal Publications' use of alternate electronic formats; (3) limits the type of documents, to those in family relations cases, that someone subject to a restraining order can serve on the person protected by the order without violating the order and requires that the restraining order provide that the subject not contact the protected person for the exclusion from criminal violations to apply; (4) eliminates a provision in the original bill (File 738) prohibiting a defendant from applying to the Sentence Review Division when his or her plea agreement included a maximum prison sentence and allowed the defendant to request a lower term; and (5) adds the provisions on claims against the state.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015, except the provisions on family support referees performing marriages and the claims against the state take effect upon passage.

1 — CASES INVOLVING INDEMNIFICATION OF MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES

In most circumstances, the law requires municipalities to pay, on behalf of their employees, any damages the employees are obligated to pay in an action for infringing a person's civil rights or causing physical damage to a person or property within the performance of their duties and within the scope of their employment.

By law, the same attorney can represent the municipality and employee. The bill eliminates a (1) requirement that the municipality file a statement with the court indicating that it will pay any final judgment against the employee and (2) prohibition on the attorney mentioning the statement during trial.

2-3 — COURT AUTHORITY TO RETURN CASES TO CERTAIN MUNICIPAL BOARDS OR OFFICERS

By law, someone can appeal to Superior Court from a decision of a municipal zoning commission, planning commission, planning and zoning commission, or zoning board of appeals; certain other municipal boards or commissions; or a municipal chief elected official or his or her designee about illegal dumping.

The bill gives the court more options when disposing of these cases on appeal. It allows the court to return the case to the board, commission, or official in a manner consistent with the evidence on the record. Existing law gives the court authority to modify or revise the board's decision. The bill requires any modification or revision to be consistent with the evidence on the record.

For appeals from a municipal inland wetlands agency, the law allows the court to set aside the agency's action or modify it if the action constitutes a taking without compensation. In other circumstances, the bill allows the court, after a hearing, to reverse, affirm, modify, or return the decision in a manner consistent with the evidence in the record.

4-5 — FAMILY SUPPORT REFEREES PERFORMING MARRIAGES

The bill allows family support referees to perform marriages. By law, family support referees are retired family support magistrates who continue to perform certain functions. By law, family support magistrates and specified others can conduct marriages.

The bill validates marriages performed before the bill's passage that would have been valid except that a family support referee:

1. performed the ceremony without explicit statutory authority to do so and

2. represented himself or herself as qualified, and the marrying couple reasonably relied on that representation.

7, 14-15, & 27 — RECOGNIZANCE OR BOND IN CIVIL CASES

The bill eliminates the current requirements for entering a recognizance or posting a bond in certain civil cases and instead prohibits them, unless the court finds good cause.

The bill repeals current provisions for civil actions that:

1. require a plaintiff who is not a state resident, or who the authority signing process believes is unable to pay the costs of the action if the court orders judgment against the plaintiff, to either (a) enter a recognizance to the adverse party with a financially responsible person in the state, who may be a surety or (b) have such a financially responsible person enter the recognizance directly with the adverse party;

2. require a member of a community who appears to defend an action against the community to post a surety bond for any costs to the community that arise from the appearance;

3. allow a court to order a bond from a nonresident defendant in an action relating to real property or an interest in real property; and

4. allow a court to order, on its own motion or that of the defendant, a sufficient bond by considering taxable costs for which the plaintiff may be responsible other than expert witness fees or charges.

The bill instead prohibits a bond or recognizance from any party in a civil action unless the court (1) on a motion and for good cause, finds the party cannot pay the costs of the action and (2) orders a bond or recognizance to the adverse party with a financially responsible person to pay taxable costs.

When determining the bond amount, the court may only consider taxable costs, excluding expert witness fees or charges. Under current law, this applies when a court orders a bond on its own motion or that of a defendant. By law, taxable costs include various things such as witness' legal fees and mileage, copies of records, and legal fees for service of process.

As under current law, any party that does not comply with a court order to give a bond or recognizance can be nonsuited or defaulted (the case is terminated). The bill eliminates the court's authority to order a bond and payment to the defendant of the action's costs up to that date for failure to comply with these laws or an authority's failure to certify to personal knowledge of a plaintiff's financial responsibility.

The bill also repeals provisions that specifically apply to endorsements in actions on probate bonds. (Other statutes govern probate bonds.)

Eviction Proceedings

The bill eliminates a prohibition on requiring recognizance for a pro se (someone representing himself or herself in court) who files a complaint for possession of premises under the eviction law when the lessee or occupant does not leave as required. Thus, it subjects these complainants to the bill's provisions allowing courts to require a bond for good cause.

16 & 17 — CIVIL PROTECTION ORDERS AND COURT FEES

The bill eliminates the following court fees related to civil protection orders:

1. $350 for applications to obtain, modify, or extend the order and

2. $125 for motions to open, set aside, modify, or extend the order.

By law, civil protection orders are available to certain sexual abuse, sexual assault, or stalking victims. By law, applicants for civil restraining orders, which are available to victims who are family and household members under similar circumstances, already do not pay these fees.

18 & 19 — CRIMINAL VIOLATION OF RESTRAINING OR CIVIL PROECTION ORDERS

The bill excludes certain conduct from criminal violation of restraining or civil protection orders.

Under the bill, the subject of a restraining order issued in Connecticut or another jurisdiction who is ordered not to contact someone protected by the order is not in criminal violation of the order when he or she has a document in a family relations case legally served on someone protected by the order by mail or a third party who is statutorily authorized to serve process. By law, family relations cases include, among others, cases involving divorce; alimony and support; child custody; juvenile matters; paternity; and probate court appeals involving child custody, termination of parental rights, guardians, conservators, and commitment.

Under the bill, the subject of a civil protection order is not in criminal violation of the order when he or she has a legal document served on the person protected by the order by mail or a third party, according to the law. This includes serving a notice of appearance, an application, a petition, or a motion, when the document was filed in good faith for a pending court matter or one that may be brought.

By law, a person commits a class D felony if he or she (1) is subject to a restraining order in Connecticut or another jurisdiction and knows its terms and (2) does not stay away from a person or place or contacts a person in violation of the order. It is a class C felony to knowingly violate an order by committing certain conduct such as threatening or harassing the person protected by the order. By law, a person subject to a civil protection order who knows its terms commits a class D felony if he or she violates the order.

By law, a class D felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. A class C felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

23 — VICTIM COMPENSATION

When determining the amount of compensation to pay a victim, the OVS or a victim compensation commissioner must consider other amounts that the person received or is eligible to receive, including state or municipal payments and workers' compensation awards. Current law requires consideration of any insurance benefits. The bill requires consideration of health insurance benefits but excludes consideration of life insurance benefits.

The law authorizes compensation for certain expenses and losses, up to a maximum award that can only be exceeded for good cause and under compelling equitable circumstances.

24-26 — WARREN CEMETERY ASSOCIATION

Under a 1917 special act, the Litchfield Judicial District Superior Court clerk acts as trustee of the escheated property formerly known as the Salmon Brownson Fund and pays (1) interest to the Warren Cemetery Association to maintain the Brownson family's graves and monuments, with any unexpended fund income used to maintain the graves of others who were members of the Warren Methodist Episcopal Church and for the association's general purposes or (2) income to a Methodist Episcopal church providing regular services in Warren.

The bill requires the clerk, by October 1, 2015, to close the account and pay the balance to the Warren Cemetery Association treasurer. It requires the association to use the funds, instead of just the interest, to maintain the graves and monuments described above and use any unexpended fund income for the association's general purposes. The association must continue to pay the fund's income to any Methodist Episcopal church providing regular services in Warren.

501-502—CLAIMS AGAINST THE STATE

The bill authorizes filing a claim against the state with the claims commissioner by:

1. Lori Calvert, notwithstanding the failure to file a proper notice with the commissioner within the required timeframe and

2. Kenneth J. Krayeske, notwithstanding the failure to file a claim within the required timeframe.

By law, the legislature can authorize someone to present a claim to the commissioner after the required time period expires if it is just and equitable, there are compelling equitable circumstances, and it serves a public purpose.

By law, someone who wishes to sue the state must, in most cases, file a claim with the commissioner. The commissioner can award a claimant up to $20,000, recommend the General Assembly approve a higher award, authorize a lawsuit against the state, or deny or dismiss a claim. The General Assembly can confirm the commissioner's decision, award a different amount, deny payment, or authorize a lawsuit against the state.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

43

Nay

0

(04/06/2015)