PA 15-85—sSB 1033

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING COURT OPERATIONS AND THE CLAIM AGAINST THE STATE OF LORI CALVERT

SUMMARY: This act makes a number of unrelated changes regarding court procedures and personnel. 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 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 explicit statutory authority;

4. allows a judicial marshal to serve a copy, instead of only an original, of certain capias orders (court orders to take a person into custody);

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 provisions regarding publication of select Superior Court decisions and allows the Commission on Official Legal Publications to publish more legal documents solely in an alternative format, including electronically;

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

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

9. 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;

10. 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 prosecution: accelerated rehabilitation, pretrial alcohol education, and pretrial supervised diversion for people with psychiatric disabilities and certain veterans with mental health conditions ( 19-21);

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

12. 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.

The act also authorizes Lori Calvert, by June 24, 2016, to file a claim against the state with the claims commissioner notwithstanding the failure to file a proper notice with the claims commissioner within the required timeframe (see BACKGROUND) ( 25).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015, except the provisions on family support referees performing marriages, civil protection order court fees, the Warren Cemetery Association, and the claim 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 in the performance of the employees' duties and within the scope of their employment.

By law, the same attorney can represent the municipality and employee. The act 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 in the case of illegal dumping, a municipal chief elected official or his or her designee.

The act 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 act 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. For appeals not involving such a taking, the act 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 act 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 act validates marriages performed before June 24, 2015 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.

6—JUDICIAL MARSHALS SERVING CAPIAS ORDERS

The act allows a judicial marshal to serve a photographic, micrographic, electronic, or other copy of a capias order 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:

1. person is either in the marshal's custody or present in the courthouse where the marshal provides security and

2. judicial marshal or the courts' Support Enforcement Services possesses the original document.

Previously, judicial marshals could only serve original orders.

7, 13-14, & 27 — RECOGNIZANCE OR BOND IN CIVIL CASES

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

The act repeals prior law's provisions for civil actions that:

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

2. required a member of a community who appeared to defend an action against the community to post a surety bond for any costs to the community arising from the appearance;

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

The act 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 prior law, this applied when a court ordered a bond on its own motion or that of a defendant. By law, taxable costs include various things, such as witnesses' legal fees and mileage, copying fees, and legal fees for service of process.

As under existing law, any party that does not comply with a court order to give a bond or recognizance can be nonsuited or defaulted (i. e. , the case is terminated). The act 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 act also repeals provisions that specifically apply to endorsements in actions on probate bonds. (Other statutes govern probate bonds. )

Eviction Proceedings

The act eliminates a prohibition on requiring recognizance for a pro se complainant (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 act's provisions allowing courts to require a bond for good cause.

8, 10-12, & 27—LEGAL DOCUMENT PUBLICATION

The act eliminates the duty of:

1. court clerks to file copies of Superior Court decisions with the Reporter of Judicial Decisions;

2. the reporter to select decisions for publication and create digests of them; and

3. the Commission on Official Legal Publications to publish the selected cases and digests (apparently, digests have not been published since the 1980s).

The law authorizes the commission to use an alternative format as its sole method to publish, maintain, and distribute Connecticut Supreme Court decisions, except the most recent 100 volumes. The act specifies that the alternative method can be an electronic format. The act also allows the alternative format to be the sole method to publish, maintain, and distribute all other official publications and archived official legal protections (this includes Appellate Court cases, the Connecticut Law Journal, the Connecticut Practice Book, and other court and legal practice publications assigned to the commission).

15 & 16 — CIVIL PROTECTION ORDERS AND COURT FEES

The act 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, are already exempt from paying these fees.

17 & 18 — CRIMINAL VIOLATION OF RESTRAINING OR CIVIL PROECTION ORDERS AND SERVING CERTAIN DOCUMENTS

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

Restraining Orders

Under the act, 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 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.

By law, criminal violation of a restraining order is a class D felony (see Table on Penalties) if a person (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.

Civil Protection Orders

Under the act, 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, criminal violation of a civil protection order is a class D felony if a person subject to the order knows its terms and violates the order.

22 — VICTIM COMPENSATION

By law, 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. Prior law required consideration of any insurance benefits. The act instead requires consideration of health insurance benefits but excludes consideration of life insurance benefits received by the person.

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.

23-24 & 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 interest 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 act 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.

BACKGROUND

Claims Against the State

By law, someone who wishes to sue the state must, in most cases, file a claim with the claims 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 (CGS 4-159).

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 (CGS 4-148).

OLR Tracking: CR: MK: PF: bs