State Moves For Reconsideration In Controversial Lapointe CasePosted: April 13, 2015
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.
Justice Palmer’s majority opinion rejects the charge–strongly asserted by Justices Espinosa and Zarella–that the high court decided the case based on an issue it raised sua sponte. The State’s motion for reconsideration just as strongly challenges that rejection:
This Court has a long and proud tradition of ensuring, for purposes of fundamental fairness, that those who appear before it have notice of the issue under consideration and the opportunity to be heard with respect thereto. Sequenzia v. Guerrieri, 298 Conn. 816, 821 (2010). This tradition is likewise a casualty of the majority’s decision for the reasons advanced by the dissenting justices.
I must admit to my growing despair of the state of relations amongst the justices of the state Supreme Court. As Kevin Rennie recently wrote on his Daily Ructions blog, correctly in my view, the Lapointe opinions “revealed open warfare among the justices.” And the Lapointe decision appears to be a continuation of the deeply troubling trend of the court raising issues sua sponte. I beseech the state bar and the judges of the Superior Court to express their opposition to this trend.
Last Friday, after a grueling public hearing, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve Chase T. Roger’s renomination for a second term as Chief Justice. I congratulate the Chief Justice for her many accomplishments as leader of the Judicial Branch over the past eight years. And I urge her–indeed, I implore her–to make restoring civility among the members of the court her number one priority in her new term. If United States Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia can go duck hunting together, the justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court can find a way to get along.