Inherent Powers of Connecticut Courts

It’s been a while since I last posted on my blog, but the COVID-19 nightmare has afforded me the opportunity to do some research and writing on a topic that’s been on my mind for a while: the inherent powers of the Connecticut trial and appellate courts. I just finished an article on that subject. Here’s the introduction (footnotes omitted):

When a people adopt a constitution that vests the “judicial power” in a particular branch of government, the courts thereby created possess certain powers which inhere in their very nature as courts. That is, these powers exist independent of any powers that a legislative branch grants expressly or impliedly. As the United States Supreme Court has explained, “[i]t has long been understood that [c]ertain implied powers must necessarily result to our Courts of justice from the nature of their institution, powers which cannot be dispensed with in a Court, because they are necessary to the exercise of all others.”

The doctrine of inherent powers is not limited to our federal courts. The inherent powers of the Connecticut courts have been described simply as “those which are necessary to the exercise of all others.”

The purpose of this article is to provide the bench and bar with a catalogue, if you will, of the inherent powers of the Superior, Supreme and Appellate courts of the State of Connecticut. It is not intended as a scholarly work. However, such works are readily available in law review articles and other secondary sources to anyone inclined to study this issue in greater detail.

The organization of this article is straightforward. The inherent powers of the Superior Court are presented in Part I; the powers unique to the Supreme and Appellate courts are presented in Part II. Within each part the inherent powers are organized into categories (and occasionally subcategories), which are arranged alphabetically.

Two important preliminary notes. First, that a particular judicial power is inherent does not necessarily mean that it is exclusively within the control of the courts. “A statute violates the constitutional mandate for a separate judicial magistracy only if it represents an effort by the legislature to exercise a power which lies exclusively under the control of the courts . . . or if it establishes a significant interference with the orderly conduct of the Superior Court’s judicial functions.” Under Connecticut’s somewhat relaxed separation of powers jurisprudence, the powers of the three branches of government occasionally overlap.

Second, many inherent powers have been codified and are embodied in the Practice Book. Yet it is important to remember that the Practice Book is not the source of inherent powers. As the Connecticut Supreme Court has observed, “[t]he trial court’s power to set aside a verdict is inherent; the Practice Book merely lays out an advisable manner of exercising it.” Although this particular statement concerned the inherent power to set aside a verdict, the Court’s observation applies to inherent powers generally.

Click here to download a PDF of the article. It’s an easy read.  Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy.

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