Monday, October 31, 2016

Supreme Fraud in Divorce Opinion

Once again, the highest level of our state legal system demonstrates how it cares only about generating revenue for the legal community and NOT actually working to resolve matters that impact residents of our state. Case in point, the October 25, 2016 Supreme Court opinion in Keller v. Keller.

In a Per Curiam opinion (meaning, a court in unanimous agreement), the Connecticut Supreme Court dismissed the appeal which would have reviewed an Appellate Court opinion, upholding findings of contempt against a plaintiff in a dissolution of marriage action. According to the opinion: "After examining the entire record on appeal and considering the briefs and oral arguments of the parties, we have determined that the appeal in this case should be dismissed on the ground that certification was improvidently granted."

Note, only after allowing the parties, both of whom were represented by appellate counsel, to expend significant fees pursuing and defending the appeal to the Supreme Court, did that Court then decline to address the merits of the underlying legal issues - ones which are sure to arise again in the future given the ambiguous language in Practice Book Rules established by members of the Judicial Branch.

In the underlying appellate matter, Keller v. Keller, 158 Conn. App. 538 (2015), the Plaintiff, Beth Keller,  "appeals from an order of contempt entered against her by the trial court in the course of the proceedings dissolving her marriage to the defendant, Richard Keller. The plaintiff claims that the court erred in finding her in contempt for failing to provide the defendant with her address after leaving the family home. The defendant argues that the appeal is moot. We do not agree that the appeal is moot, and we affirm the judgment of the trial court."

Time and again, we see examples at the Trial Court, Appellate Court, and Supreme Court level where individual jurists or panels of jurists side step resolution of legal issues, enabling - and in fact, practically providing a guarantee that - future litigants to get caught in the same trap with no legal clarification to turn to which could easily short-circuit the issue with much less time and expense. The reason, of course, is that our legal system needs to, first and foremost, ensure future business for itself and the many employees which comprise the criminal enterprise doing business as the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.

We take no particular position on whether the plaintiff was correct in her legal argument or whether she should have indeed provided written notice of her address to the defendant, Mr. Keller, as he asserted in his original motion for contempt against her. You can follow the links above and form your own opinion on that, but it is clear that the legal community is concerned about declining revenues, especially in the family and civil arena, and it is an outright fraud by members of our Supreme Court for failing to do their job and issue an opinion which would clarify, one way or another, the possible ambiguity in existing statutes or rules, which contribute to ongoing conflict. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

6/24/2016 - Annual Judges Meeting

The Annual Judges Meeting was held once again and, as expected, the dominant theme involved budget cuts and closure of Judicial Branch facilities. More analysis to come.

Monday, May 16, 2016

AudioGate — CT Judicial Branch Bait and Switch

There was an interesting, but somewhat disturbing news program published online over the weekend by American News & Information Services, Inc. (Harwinton, CT). This small media company covers a variety of legal, political, and government-related news topics under a host of different names or brands. In this case, it was a 2-hour Saturday afternoon episode of their flagship Summary Judgment Talkshow that caught our attention.

In their YouTube broadcast, show hosts Ed Peruta (of Peruta v. County of San Diego fame) and Atty. Rachel Baird kick off a discussion with guest Dan Lynch about a range of topics relating to the Connecticut Judicial Branch and access to the courts. Lynch is a self-represented litigant who, after nearly 8 years of pursuing a variety of claims, was just granted permission to sue the State of Connecticut with a waiver of sovereign immunity in a rare reversal by the General Assembly. 

Dan Lynch appears as guest on 'Summary Judgment' with hosts Atty. Rachel M. Baird (left) and Ed Peruta 

Among the more interesting topics discussed, Lynch notes how the Judicial Branch petitioned the Connecticut Legislature during the 2012 Legislative Session for support of legislation which would enable them to increase certain court filing fees. The bill in question was Raised H.B. No. 5388, titled somewhat cleverly, "AN ACT CONCERNING COURT FEES AND THE DELIVERY OF LEGAL SERVICES TO THE POOR." Now, seriously, especially in an election year, who wants to be known for voting NO on such a magnanimous piece of legislation?

The controversial part, however, comes in the details. As part of this bill, if passed, the Judicial Branch would increase the filing fees for a variety of things with 60% going to support legal services for the poor, but the remaining 40% going into a Judicial Branch technology fund for certain important initiatives, most of which were positioned as necessary to respond to the growing number of self-represented litigants appearing in state courts. The most notable of the new technology services promised as part of this legislation, the Chief Court Administrator at that time, Judge Barbara Quinn, testified before the Judiciary Committee, saying:

"If the funding is provided through passage of this bill, it will be used for the following purposes:  Provide attorneys with nearly instantaneous 24-hour access to digital audio recordings of court hearings and trials on a daily basis, so that they can review a day’s testimony from their own computer, without the expense or delay of an official transcript." 

Now, we'd be inclined to believe the word of a Chief Court Administrator, right? Well, it gets better. AFTER the legislation passed into law, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers lauded the passage at the 2012 Annual Judges Meeting, reinforcing the intent to use the funds to deliver audio recordings as promised. Her full presentation can be viewed online, but the relevant portion reads as follows:

"Finally, legislation passed this session increased certain court fees to provide funds for the Branch’s technology revolving fund. Having a steady reliable funding source for technology will enable us to plan and implement many technology projects, most notably, the expansion of digital audio recording to all of our courtrooms. This will enable the Branch to make audio recordings of proceedings available to the bar and public on the day they are recorded and, ultimately reduce the time it takes to produce a transcript and accelerate the appeal process."

SO, the big question now being asked is a lot like the one posed by Clara Peller in the 1984 award-winning commercials for the Wendy's restaurant chain - "Where's the Beef?"
Only, in our case, the question is "Where's the Audio?"

It seems that the Branch made their pitch, convinced lawmakers to vote for increased fees based on a promised delivery of a tangible service with real benefits to citizens of Connecticut, but then they failed to live up to their end of the bargain. Not only have four years gone by without audio recordings being made available, but in certain instances the Branch has even fought against providing these services to individuals making an administrative request for audio through the Americans with Disabilities Act.