Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-143

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING STATE AGENCY COMPLIANCE WITH PROBATE COURT ORDERS.

Vote Date:

3/28/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/24/2016

File No.:

587

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee, Sen. Kevin C. Kelly, 21st Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

Senator Kelly brought this issue to the attention of the Judiciary Committee. This bill requires a state agency to follow the decisions of the probate court while still allowing such agency the standing to appeal that decision to the Superior Court.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Office of the Attorney General, Attorney General George Jepsen:

Opposes because, if enacted, would pose significant problems for state agencies and would have a direct, adverse impact on the case load burden borne by the Attorney General's office. It also proposes an expansion of probate court jurisdiction without sufficient consideration of the possible impacts.

Department of Social Services:

Opposes because the bill: 1. Conflicts with federal and state law; 2. Results in DSS being bound by probate court orders without having participated in the probate proceedings; 3. Places an undue burden on the courts, DSS, and the Attorney General's office; and 4.Places an extraordinary burden on state taxpayers.

The Office of the Probate Court Administrator:

Supports because the bill confirms the binding effect of the decisions of Probate Courts and adds specificity by explicitly stating that a state agency, like any other party to a Probate Court proceeding, is bound by the court's decision. The bill also confirms existing law that a state agency, like any party aggrieved by a Probate Court decision, has the right to appeal to the Superior Court.

Connecticut Department of Children & Families:

Has concerns regarding Section 1 of SB 143 which we view as unnecessary and interferes with due process of law. Existing statutes confer authority on the Probate Court to enter and enforce orders against state agencies, including DCF, when the legislature has deemed that appropriate. The bill appears to be a blanket statement requiring state agencies to comply with Probate Court orders regardless of whether the state agency is a party to the case. This gives Probate Court judges unprecedented and ill-defined power that is not available even to Superior Court Judges.

Department of Developmental Services, Commissioner Morna Murray

The DDS has concerns with provisions in Section 1 in SB 143 that would enable the Probate Courts to require any state agency to follow a Probate Court's order or decree where applicable to state agencies even though the Courts of Probate are courts of limited jurisdiction. This new provision could invite orders which exceed the Probate Courts' statutory authority.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Connecticut Bar Association, Attorney Lisa Nachmias Davis:

The Elder Law Section of the CT Bar Association strongly supports SB 143 which would allow the Probate Courts to exercise their statutory primary jurisdiction over matters such as conservatorships, guardianships and estates, without having their decisions ignored and second-guessed by state agencies which have declined to participate in court proceedings, it also restores the authority of the Probate Court as a vital part of the judiciary, as the decision-maker over disputed questions of fact and law in matters where it has jurisdiction.

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Matthew Stillman, Attorney:

Both Matthew Stillman and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys support SB 143 because no prejudice would be imposed against State agencies and they would be ensured the same protections as all other parties appearing before Probate Courts. State agencies must be noticed accordingly, and if unhappy with a decision, the right to appeal is preserved. This current bill is budget neutral with no cost to administration and/or state coffers. The bill re-establishes a proper procedure for State Agencies to follow when participating in Probate Court hearings.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Submitted

Reported by: Jason Snukis

Date: April 11, 2016