State Republicans Propose Moving Watchdog Agencies To Judicial Branch

The House and Senate Republicans released their own budget proposal today, called the “Blueprint for Prosperity.”  As a lawyer with a strong interest in open government, page 21 of the report caught my eye.  It contains a section entitled “Safeguarding Connecticut’s Watchdog Agencies.” The section states:

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Random Thoughts On Statutory Interpretation

While doing some research this morning, I happened upon a wonderful quote by the great Second Circuit judge Learned Hand on the issue of statutory interpretation.  The quote seemed particularly apt with King v. Burwell still very much on my mind.  Here’s the quote (from Cabell v. Markham, 148 F.2d 737 (2d Cir. 1945)):

The decisions are legion in which [courts] have refused to be bound by the letter, when it frustrates the patent purpose of the whole statute. . . .  As Holmes, J., said in a much-quoted passage from Johnson v. United States, 163 F. 30, 32, 18 L.R.A., N.S., 1194: “it is not an adequate discharge of duty for courts to say: We see what you are driving at, but you have not said it, and therefore we shall go on as before.”  . . . Of course it is true that the words used, even in their literal sense, are the primary, and ordinarily the most reliable, source of interpreting the meaning of any writing: be it a statute, a contract, or anything else. But it is one of the surest indexes of a mature and developed jurisprudence not to make a fortress out of the dictionary; but to remember that statutes always have some purpose or object to accomplish, whose sympathetic and imaginative discovery is the surest guide to their meaning. (Emphasis supplied.)

Open Meetings: Asset Or Albatross

On April 10, 2015, about 150 state and local government officials attended the state Freedom of Information Commission’s annual conference, an educational program featuring a number of panel discussions on various aspects of our state FOI law.  The theme of this year’s conference was “Open Meetings: Asset or Albatross.”  I had the honor and pleasure to moderate a panel discussion concerning the benefits (and costs) of requiring government to conduct its business in public.  I had the support of three terrific panelists: WNPR’s Jeff Cohen, Durham First Selectman Laura Francis, and Stamford Assistant Corporation Counsel (and former FOIC Commissioner) Amy LiVolsi.  CT-N taped the conference.  The panel discussion I moderated starts at approximately 2:31:00 into the program.

Inside The Connecticut Supreme Court

This Sunday (April 19), on WFSB’s Face the State, Dennis House will present an “exclusive, rare look inside a place few people in Connecticut have been:  the State Supreme Court.”  Although politics and specific cases are off limits, House’s interview of Chief Justice Chase Rogers and justices Richard Palmer, Dennis Eveleigh, Richard Robinson and Andrew McDonald should be enlightening to viewers unfamiliar with the way the state’s high court works.

Hat tip: Proloy Das

The General Assembly’s Constitutional Authority To Sanction Or Expel Its Own Members

With the Hartford Courant calling on the General Assembly to sanction Hartford Representative Minnie Gonzalez for an email she wrote the other day, I was curious about what the Connecticut Constitution says about the authority of the House or Senate to punish its own members.  Article III, section 13, entitled “Powers of each house”, states:

Each house shall determine the rules of its own proceedings, and punish members for disorderly conduct, and, with the consent of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same cause; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the legislature of a free and independent state.

Supreme Court Releases Written Decision In Cassandra C. Case

On January 8, 2015, the Supreme Court heard expedited oral arguments in In re: Cassandra C, the case involving a 17-year-old adolescent who claimed the right to refuse life-saving chemotherapy for her Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Only minutes after the oral argument concluded, the court issued a brief oral ruling from the bench in which the justices unanimously rejected Cassandra C.’s argument that the court should adopt the so-called “mature minor” doctrine.  The court said that a formal written opinion would follow.  Today, the court issued its written opinion.

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State Moves For Reconsideration In Controversial Lapointe Case

Last Friday the State filed a motion asking the Connecticut Supreme Court to reconsider, en banc, its 4-2 decision in Lapointe v. Comm’r of Correction, which generated four opinions: the majority opinion (Palmer, J.), a concurring opinion (Rogers, C.J.) and two dissents (Espinosa, J. and Zarella, J.). The case has generated considerable controversy for several reasons, including the unjudicial tone of some of the opinions and footnotes and, perhaps more importantly, the majority’s resolution of the case based on an issue that was neither briefed nor argued.

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An A+ For Rep. Jutila On Police Transparency

Kudos to Representative Ed Jutila (D-East Lyme) and eight other members of the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) committee for voting to send Raised Bill 6750 to the floor of the House for consideration.  (Read CT News Junkie’s story about the vote.)

I’ve written about the importance of Raised Bill 6750 in a previous post; it would overrule a bad Connecticut Supreme Court decision that substantially curtailed public access to arrest-related records.  The proposed bill would restore the Freedom of Information Commission’s longstanding interpretation of state law, which allowed greater access to such records, subject to important exemptions, including protecting the identity of witnesses and avoiding disclosures that would prejudice a prospective law enforcement action.  The bill strikes the proper balance between the public’s right to know and law enforcement’s need to avoid premature disclosure of certain information in order to protect the integrity of investigations and potential prosecutions..

Connecticut Is Not Indiana

Last week Indiana enacted a controversial law that many believe is intended to allow individuals, particularly for-profit business owners, to discriminate against persons who identify as LGBT, on the ground that providing services to such persons may burden the provider’s religious convictions.  Today, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that he will sign an executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana.  The governor stated, “When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by. We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated.”

In response to the governor’s announcement, some are arguing that Connecticut is being hypocritical because it has its own law, enacted in 1993, that is (allegedly) no different from, or is even worse than, the new Indiana law.  (Click here and here for examples of such arguments.)

Are those arguments correct?  I think not.  Nothing in the text or history of the Connecticut law suggests that the General Assembly intended to allow individuals or business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community based on religious beliefs.

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What Happens When A Jewish Man Won’t Give His Wife A Get?


Under Jewish law, a “Get” is a document that a husband must give his wife to effect a divorce.  Without a Get, a woman who has obtained a civil divorce is still considered married under Jewish law and may not remarry.

The biblical requirement (Deuteronomy 24:1) that the husband give his wife a Get in order to formally end their marriage under Jewish law means that a recalcitrant husband can use the Get as leverage in a civil divorce.  Or he can simply be cruel and refuse to give the Get out of spite.  And in Israel, where there is no distinction between civil and religious marriage, and in very orthodox communities outside of Israel, a husband who won’t give his wife a Get effectively enslaves her to him.

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