CT Supreme Court Reverses School Funding Ruling

The Connecticut Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell “(CCJEF v. Rell”), which challenged the constitutional adequacy of Connecticut’s public education system. Chief Justice Chase Rogers, in what may be one of her final decisions before retiring next month, wrote the opinion for a divided court. She stated that Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher clearly violated separation of powers principles when he ruled, based on a novel constitutional standard that he created, that the state’s educational system was unconstitutional:

[W]e agree with the defendants that, having found that the educational resources provided by the state reasonably meet the minimal needs of the state’s students . . . the trial court should have concluded that the state’s educational system satisfies article eighth, § 1 [of the state constitution], and it should not have gone on to apply a constitutional standard of its own devising. By doing so, not only did the trial court fail to defer to the legislature, it also usurped the legislative responsibility to determine how additional funding, beyond the constitutionally required minimum, should be allocated and how to craft educational policies that, in its view, best balance the wide variety of interests at issue. This action was in clear violation of separation of powers principles.

Many legal observers, myself included, anticipated this decision and its separation of powers rationale.

Justices Richard Palmer, Richard Robinson and Appellate Court Judge Michael Sheldon, sitting by designation, issued a separate opinion which concurred in part and dissented in part from the majority decision. They agreed with much of the majority’s analysis, but thought that instead of directing the entry of judgment for the defendants, the case should have been remanded for a new trial.

I hope to write more about the twin decisions after reviewing them more closely.


The Stories Behind The Biggest Stories Of 2017

Stories Behind The Biggest Stories 2017

Please attend!!!!!!  Great program, great speakers, great price!

Malloy Nominates McDonald To Become Chief Justice

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today that he intends to nominate Associate Justice Andrew McDonald to become the next Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Current Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers announced last year that she intends to retire next month after eleven years as the state’s top judge.

Click here for more on this developing story.  And here is a link to my prior post about Justice McDonald’s initial appointment to the Supreme Court.



Does/Should The 1st Amendment Protect Speech On College Campuses?

Two of the country’s leading First Amendment scholars give diametrically opposite answers to this topical and pressing question. Robert Post, former Dean of Yale Law School, answers the question “no” in an enlightening post on Vox, entitled “There is no 1st Amendment right to speak on a college campus.” Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, answers the question “yes” in a responsive post on Vox, titled “Hate speech is protected free speech, even on college campuses.”

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Does Chris Mattei Have A “Bysiewicz” Problem?

Former federal prosecutor Christopher Mattei recently abandoned his interest in running for governor of the Nutmeg State and has declared that he will now seek the Office of the Attorney General.  This development follows in the wake of Attorney General George Jepsen’s surprise announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2018.

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Is Heckling A Speaker A Crime?

Short Answer: It depends (my favorite two words as a lawyer).

Fuller Answer: Isolated heckles by an individual are protected speech under the First Amendment. But an intentional and sustained effort to disrupt a lawful public assembly by heckling the speaker is unlawful in many states–and it should be. Eugene Volokh, a leading First Amendment scholar, explains the law in this helpful article.

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Wedding Cakes, Discrimination And Free Speech/Religion

For folks interested in really thinking hard about whether a wedding cake baker can refuse, on First Amendment grounds, to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, Prof. Andrew Koppleman offers this thoughtful article on the subject.  Here’s his opening paragraph:

On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the case in which a baker claims that free speech protects his right to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Although it is impossible to know how the Court will rule, I can confidently predict that if the baker wins, the justices’ explanation will be incoherent.


Is A “Just The Legislature” CT-N Legal?

After a week of reruns, CT-N is back on the air today after the Office of Legislative Management hired some former employees of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN), the non-profit that operated CT-N since 1999.   Legislative leadership says that CT-N, which is operating under a radically reduced budget, will focus its cameras on the General Assembly, largely to the exclusion of the executive and judicial branches.  Leaderships says that this narrow focus is consistent with CT-N’s original mission.  But as Christine Stuart reports today on CT News Junkie, leadership’s understanding of CT-N’s original mission is just plain wrong.  Coverage of all three branches of state government was always part of CT-N’s mission.

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Wishing For Days Of Yore In Connecticut

I enjoy reading historical Connecticut legal documents.  The quotation below appears at the beginning of Book I of the 1808 Connecticut Statutes.  Oh, what a contrast to today’s General Assembly.  I dare say our elected representatives ought to read this to understand why Connecticut once truly warranted the moniker, “The Land of Steady Habits.”

CONNECTICUT, from the establishment of her government, has been politically happy. She has been distinguished, in this respect, from almost every nation on the globe. There is, moreover, a trait of national character, for which she has been equally distinguished. We allude to the unparalleled caution, with which her rulers have proceeded, in the passing of new laws, and the adoption of new measures. That the former has regularly resulted from the latter, is a truth, of which those who form opinions, by examining facts, can have little doubt. Experimental philosophy had been taught, and recommended, by Lord Bacon, before the emigration of our ancestors. Adopting the same mode of reasoning, they applied it steadily, and successfully, to legal polity. They seldom took a step in legislation, till experience had evinced its necessity. They then provided for the immediate exigency, but for nothing more. Hence, our system of jurisprudence has, in a very strict sense, grown with the growth of our country, The caution of our primitive legislators resulted neither from incapacity to devise, nor want of courage to execute. Ludlow, Haynes, Hopkins, and Henry Wolcott were not weak, or timid men.

Democracy Dies In Darkness

For nearly two decades, the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN) has operated CT-N, Connecticut’ s version of C-SPAN, providing neutral, unbiased coverage of all three co-equal branches of Connecticut state government.  Now, due to an abject failure of leadership in the General Assembly, CT-N may shut down.  At a time when it is more important than ever to keep the light shining on the operations of state government–which just negotiated a two-year, $41.3 billion budget in near total secrecy–leadership in the General Assembly wants to turn the lights off.  [Click here to continue reading.]