DCF Commissioner Katz Responds To Judge Dewey

Earlier this week Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey found Douglas Wirth not guilty of sexually abusing a son that he and his former husband had adopted through the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”).  As the Hartford Courant reported, Judge Dewey did not limit her opinion to explaining why she found that the state had failed to meet its burden of proof; she also had some fairly harsh things to say about DCF for allegedly failing to turn over all relevant documents until the eve of trial.  She was particularly concerned about DCF’s apparent failure to disclose pre-adoption records of the complainant.

In a letter filed with the Superior Court today (a copy of which I obtained through a request to DCF), DCF Commissioner Joette Katz responds to Judge Dewey’s criticisms.   Here is an excerpt from the letter:

In response to the comments made by the Court in the trial of State v Douglas Wirth, I directed the Department of Children and Families to undertake a thorough review of all the records produced related to this matter.   As the Court is aware, the Department’s records are confidential, and the Department may only disclose records consistent with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-28. I have learned that in various proceedings related to this matter, the Department responded to over 40 record requests. These record productions included responses to Attorney Michael Dwyer, who represented Mr. Wirth in the criminal matter; the Office of the State’s Attorney pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-28(g)(7); and to the Court in response to two subpoenas issued by defense counsel as required by Conn. Gen. Stat. 17a-28(g) (16).   As the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, I take very seriously the Court’s statements that the Department failed to produce records in this matter.   I am saddened that counsel of record in this matter did not correct the Court’s statements concerning record production. As set forth below, the Department fully complied with all record requests.

My understanding is that the Court was especially concerned that exculpatory information was contained in the Department’s records prior to the time the children were adopted by Mr. Wirth and Mr. Harasz, and that the Court believed that this information had not been made available to defense counsel prior to the trial. Although I cannot comment on how the Court came to this belief, a review of our records indicates that this is improper and inaccurate. The Department made record disclosures to Attorney Dwyer via e-mail on the following dates: August 17, 2011; May 3, 2012; May 9, 2012; May 22, 2012 and September 24, 2012. In particular, Attorney Dwyer was sent the pre-adoption records by e-mail on August 17, 2011. This disclosure included records concerning the children that went back to 1997.   It is unfortunate that Attorney Dwyer failed to bring this information to the Court’s attention.

* * *

As Commissioner, a member of the bar, former Chief of Legal Services for the Public Defender Commission, a former colleague on the Superior Court bench and a long time Associate Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, I have very genuine concerns when the Department I oversee has been charged with disregarding or being indifferent to requests for disclosure and subpoenas. I hope you can appreciate my dismay at learning that the Department had been unfairly chastised and that counsel who knew otherwise failed to rectify the record. I further hope that this letter stands as the much needed correction.



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