The Connecticut Supreme Court’s October term begins today. Here is a look at the arguments for the first week of the term:
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
The second term of the year begins with the public interest appeal in State v. Kosuda-Bigazzi, S.C. 20341, in which the Court will decide whether the defendant was entitled to dismissal of the murder charges against her pursuant to State v. Lenarz, 301 Conn. 417 (2011), based on the state’s violation of the defendant’s attorney-client privilege. During a search of the defendant’s home, the police seized and read two files from a locked cabinet, one of which was labeled “Criminal Defense Attorney Oct 2017.” Both files contained substantially similar handwritten documents describing the killing of the defendant’s husband. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the documents in one of the two files were not protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Court will determine whether the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
In the second case, Kos v. Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, S.C. 20256, the Court will decide whether to overrule Wasfi v. Chaddha, 218 Conn. 200 (1991), which held that it was proper to instruct a jury in a medical malpractice case that physicians may choose between acceptable alternative treatments without incurring liability solely because that choice may have led to an unfortunate result. The plaintiff claims that the “acceptable alternative treatments” instruction is no longer appropriate and that Wasfi should be overruled.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
The Court will hear argument in two criminal appeals. In the first, State v. LaMantia, S.C. 20190, the Court will address whether a defendant may be found guilty of tampering with a witness by urging the witness via text message not to cooperate with the police shortly after the incident being investigated. Shortly after an altercation involving the defendant and the witness, the defendant sent the witness text messages urging him not to tell the police the truth about what happened. The issue is whether the defendant could be found to have intended to induce the witness to testify falsely in an “official proceeding” while the incident was still in the beginning stages of the investigation.
The second case, State v. Sawyer, S.C. 20132, involves the question whether the Connecticut Constitution requires a higher standard of proof than the United States Constitution in order to establish probable cause. The defendant, a member of the Holy Cross Brotherhood, was arrested for possession of child pornography after a fellow member reported to police that he saw the defendant looking at images on his computer of what appeared to be naked underage children. The defendant claims that, at least in circumstances in which a search warrant is issued when it is not known whether any crime was committed, the Connecticut Constitution requires a “more probable than not” standard in order to establish probable cause.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
The Court will hear argument in one family case and one criminal case. In Hall v. Hall, S.C. 20181, the Court will address whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying the parties’ joint motion to vacate a contempt order. The trial court initially found the plaintiff in contempt for unilaterally transferring money from a joint account to a personal account, in violation of a court order. The parties’ later jointly moved to open the judgment and vacate the order, in part on the basis that the plaintiff acted in reliance on the advice of counsel. The Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying the joint motion.
The second case is State v. Komisarjevsky, S.C. 18973, which arises from the defendant’s conviction for the 2007 home invasion and homicide of the Petit family in Cheshire. The Court will address, among other things, whether the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s request to transfer the trial from the Judicial District of New Haven violated his right to an impartial jury. The defendant claims that extensive pretrial publicity regarding the crime inflamed the passions of the community and infected the jury pool. The defendant also claims that the state violated his right to due process by failing to disclose evidence that would have supported his defense, including over 100 pages of letters written by his co-defendant.
Friday, October 18, 2019
The first week of the second term concludes with argument in one criminal case, State v. Joseph A., S.C. 20125, in which the Court will address the trial court’s duty to canvass a criminal defendant who waives his right to counsel. The defendant represented himself during arraignment and plea negotiations while he attempted to obtain counsel, but later waived his right to counsel and represented himself at trial. In the Appellate Court, the defendant claimed that the trial court improperly failed to canvass him about his right to counsel before allowing him to represent himself at arraignment and during plea negotiations. The Appellate Court affirmed, concluding that the trial court had no duty to canvass the defendant until he unequivocally invoked his right to self-representation during later pretrial proceedings. The Supreme Court will address whether the trial court had the duty to canvass the defendant about his right to counsel in the absence of an unequivocal invocation of his right to self-representation.