We are into the second week of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s 2017-2018 year. Here’s a look at this week’s cases:

Monday, September 18th

The first case is Francini v. Goodspeed Airport, LLC, SC 19705, where the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly held that an easement by necessity for a landlocked parcel is not limited only to ingress and egress. The trial court had rejected the plaintiff’s claim that his property’s easement by necessity to access a public highway also included a right of way to access commercial utilities and the Appellate Court reversed.

The second case is State v. Urbanowki, SC 19678, where the Court will consider whether evidence that the defendant in a strangulation prosecution had previously attempted to choke another woman was harmless error.

Tuesday, September 19th

As part of its public education goals, each year the Connecticut Supreme Court holds an “On Circuit” program where it hears oral arguments at an area law school, college, or high school. This year, the venue for the “On Circuit” program will be the University of New Haven and two cases will be argued.

The first case is Brooks v. Powers, SC 19727, which addresses governmental immunity. The plaintiff is the estate of a woman whose body washed up on the shore. A report had been made to the local police department that she was near the ocean during a severe storm and in need of medical attention, but no one responded. The issue is whether the imminent harm, identifiable victim exception to discretionary act immunity applies. The trial court had concluded that it does, granting summary judgment. A divided panel of the Appellate Court reversed.

The second case, State v. Panek, 19772, is about the meaning of the “not in plain view” element of the video voyeurism statute and, specifically, whether it must be evaluated from the perspective of the defendant or the public at-large. The trial court concluded that the former was the correct test, and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss because the alleged victims were in his immediate physical presence. The State appealed and the Appellate Court affirmed, agreeing with the trial court.


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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.


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The Connecticut Supreme Court’s February term begins today and ends on Thursday with the Court hearing six cases this week.

Tuesday, February 21st

The Court starts the term by hearing oral argument in Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Inc. v. Beverly Platner et al., SC 19797, where the Court will consider whether the plaintiff-land

The third term of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s 2016-2017 sitting begins today. Here are the cases that it will be hearing this week:

Monday, November 7th  

The Court starts the November term with CCT Communications, Inc. v. Zone Telecom, Inc., SC 19574, a case which explores whether a contract’s termination clause for filing bankruptcy is effective when the bankruptcy case is filed but subsequently dismissed. The second case is Disciplinary Counsel v. Elder, SC 19698, where the Court will consider whether a lawyer was properly suspended for misrepresenting his identity on a telephone call ten years prior to the grievance complaint, in light of the Practice Book’s six year limitations period for attorney grievances.


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The Connecticut Supreme Court has released its argument calendar for its second term of the 2016-2017 sitting. Here’s a look at the first week:

Tuesday, October 11th

The Court starts the October term with a family appeal and a habeas appeal. In Gabriel v. Gabriel, SC 19571, the Court granted certification to review the Appellate Court’s decision as to whether the trial court’s modification of unallocated alimony and child support was proper after there was a change in the primary custodial parent. In Kaddah v. Commissioner of Correction, SC 19512, the Supreme Court will consider whether a prisoner has a right to the effective assistance of counsel in a second habeas proceeding, challenging the quality of the representation at the first habeas proceeding.


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Argument Recap:  Connecticut Light and Power Company v. Proctor, SC 19531

The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in Connecticut Light and Power Company v. Proctor, SC 1935, a dispute concerning a poultry business, unpaid electric service and a man from New Jersey known only as “Chan.” Setting aside the interesting facts, the legal issue presented is whether the elements of an implied in fact contract were established at trial.

The facts, in a nutshell, reflect that the Defendant, Gary Proctor, was a part time employee of a poultry business known as “Pedigree Chicks” which, although operating in Connecticut, was not registered with the Secretary of State’s office.  Mr. Proctor contacted Plaintiff to arrange for electric service to the commercial location but was informed by Plaintiff that no commercial account could be created in the absence of a validly registered corporate entity.  From that point, the facts asserted by the parties diverge greatly with the Plaintiff asserting that Defendant orally undertook personal responsibility for not only future electric consumption charges but also for payment of “retroactive” charges for service previously provided to the location.  Plaintiff’s claims were bolstered by Defendant’s act of providing his home address, contact phone numbers and social security number in a conversation with one of its representatives at the time of the creation of the account.


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Argument Recap:  Bifolck v. Philip Morris, S.C. 19310

On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Bifolck v. Philip Morris, Inc., S.C. 19310. The question before the Court was whether, for product liability actions premised on design defects, Connecticut should abandon its consumer expectation test and adopt a risk utility test that requires proof of a reasonable alternative design.

The case has significant implications for how product liability claims will be proven under Connecticut law going forward and, as such, will affect businesses that manufacture, distribute, and sell products within this state. The importance of this case is highlighted by the fact that twelve organizations filed amici briefs (Murtha Cullina authored an amicus brief on behalf of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, which was joined by the New Haven Manufacturers Association and the Insurance Association of Connecticut).


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Today, the Connecticut Attorney General filed an application for certification to file a public interest appeal in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, HHD-CV-14-5037565-S, the high-profile school funding lawsuit pending in Hartford Superior Court. The State is seeking permission to pursue an appeal under Connecticut General Statutes Section 52-265a which permits immediate appellate review of decisions rendered before the completion of a case under special circumstances.

Last week, Judge Thomas Moukawsher issued a 90-page post-trial decision declaring that Connecticut’s education funding policy is “irrational.” Rather than enter a final judgment, the court scheduled further proceedings to be held after the State has submitted to the court proposed reforms and after the plaintiffs have commented on those proposals. The judge gave the State until March 6, 2017 to submit its proposal addressing education related concerns such as the relationship between state and local government in education, a formula for statewide funding, standards for hiring, evaluating, and paying teachers, and funding and defining special education. In the last words of its decision, the court “retain[ed] jurisdiction” over the case until those issues had been addressed.


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The Connecticut Supreme Court is now open and in session…

September brings with it the beginning of a new year at the Connecticut Supreme Court. It also marks the start of “Appellate Insights,” a blog by the Appellate Practice Group at Murtha Cullina. Our goal is to analyze and discuss civil appeals pending before the