The Connecticut Supreme Court ‘s 2017-2018 sitting kicks off on Monday. From September 11th through September 28th, the Court will hear oral arguments in nineteen cases. Here’s a look at first week:
Monday, September 11th
The new year starts with a divorce case and a zoning case. In Reinke v. Sing, SC 19687, the Supreme Court will consider whether a family court, without a finding of fraud, has jurisdiction to open a dissolution judgment several years after it was entered based on a party’s failure to disclose certain assets at the time of the divorce. The case has garnered interest from the Connecticut Bar Association and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which both urge for a reversal of the Appellate Court’s decision which had determined that, absent a finding of fraud, the trial court was without jurisdiction to open the dissolution judgment.
The second case is Piece of Paradise, LLC v. Borough of Fenwick Zoning of Appeals, SC 19890, a zoning a dispute over property related to actress Katherine Hepburn’s former Fenwick Estate “Paradise” set on Long Island Sound and built in 1939. At issue is whether the zoning board’s denial of a variance from a 2011 amendment to the zoning regulations, which imposed new setback requirements that effectively barred the property owner from building a single-family home on a parcel that was formerly part of a larger parcel containing the Hepburn home, constitutes a regulatory taking of property.
Tuesday, September 12th
In Valliere v. Commissioner of Social Services, SC 19701, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal by the Attorney General’s office claiming that a trial court was wrong to reject a Department of Social Services ruling that a nursing home resident must use her monthly income to pay for her care at the facility, in contravention of a Probate Court decree that requires that her income be used to support her husband. The trial court concluded that both state and federal law required the Department to abide by the Probate Court’s order. The Attorney General’s office argues that the Department of Social Services has exclusive authority to determine the amount of the community spouse allowance.
The second case is Hull v. Newtown, SC 19656, where the Court will determine whether the town could be sued where one of its police officers brought a patient, who was hallucinating and hearing voices, to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and the patient shot a nurse. The issue is whether the patient was under “arrest” and whether the police officer had a ministerial duty to search the patient for weapons.
Wednesday, September 13th
In State v. Miranda, SC 19597, the Court will hear an appeal over whether a defendant was properly convicted of murder after a witness identified him from a photographic array based on God directing the witness to the defendant’s photograph. Before the jury, the trial court denied an objection to the testimony on grounds that the witness’ basis for the identification could be addressed on cross-examination. However, after excusing the jury and learning that the witness had never seen the defendant’s face and was relying on “God’s guidance” for his identification, the trial court agreed that the identification was improper but did not sustain the objection in front of the jury and did not order the testimony to be stricken.
The second case is about state pensions. In Bouchard v. State Employees Retirement Commission, SC 19754, the Court will decide whether the Court’s 2007 decision in Longley v. State Employees Retirement Commission, which held that state employees can add their prorated longevity payments to their salaries in order to calculate their retirement income, should be applied retroactively to all state retirees. The Commission determined that it would apply the Longley rule to all individuals who retired on or after October 2, 2001. The plaintiffs are three state retirees who retired in 1990, 1997, and 2000. The three state retirees in Bouchard further claim that they are entitled to ten-percent interest on their pension recalculations.
Thursday, September 14th
In Connecticut Housing Finance Authority v. Alfaro, SC 19720, the Court will decide whether the Appellate Court and trial court properly concluded that a defendant in a foreclosure action that is unilaterally withdrawn by the plaintiff did not “successfully… defend the action” and is not entitled to attorneys fees under General Statutes § 42-150bb. The appeal is being bought on behalf of the defendant by a legal services clinic at Yale Law School. Several non-profit legal services organizations have filed an amicus brief arguing that failure to award attorneys fees in withdrawn foreclosure actions would affect equal access to justice for low-income tenants and homeowners.
The first week ends with Jones v. Connecticut, SC 19725, in which a defendant who was convicted of capital murder appeals from the denial of his petition for a new trial where he claims that newly discovered DNA evidence would have resulted in his acquittal. Citing the Court’s decision in Lapointe v. Commissioner of Correction, 316 Conn. 225 (2015), Jones argues that the trial court’s denial of his petition should be reviewed de novo rather than for an abuse of discretion.