If you choose to approve my nomination, I look forward to the
opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Connecticut.
way of background I spent my career as an attorney with Cummings &
Lockwood in Stamford, Connecticut, where I litigated both at the
trial and the Appellate Court levels, primarily handling commercial
and employment-related cases.
A large part of my practice was also spent advising clients on
personnel issues and providing sexual harassment and diversity
training to corporations and schools.
In January of 1998, I was appointed to the Superior Court bench.
For the eight years I was on the Superior Court, I enjoyed a variety
of assignments. I began my judicial career in the GA in Danbury. I
was then the presiding judge for juvenile matters in Bridgeport,
where I handled both delinquency, and abuse and neglect cases.
From there I went to the Child Protection Section in Middletown,
where I heard termination of parental rights petitions. I then was
assigned to civil matters in Waterbury.
Then, for the next four years, I was the presiding judge for the
Complex Litigation docket in Stamford, Connecticut. In May of 2005,
I became the presiding judge for civil matters in Stamford.
These assignments, particularly the child protection session, and
Complex Litigation dockets, required that I review lengthy records
and do a significant amount of writing.
At the trial level I wrote over 150 decisions, of which
approximately 30 were fully reviewed by the Appellate Court or
Supreme Court. These writing experiences, in particular, piqued my
interest in being considered for the Appellate Court.
Since being appointed to the Appellate Court I have authored 34
opinions and one dissent and have been on the panel of 136 cases. To
date, all of the cases that I authored have been denied
certification for review by the Supreme Court.
I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in
courts throughout the State and work with dedicated and professional
judicial employees at each of the assignments I have been given. I
can truly say that I have looked forward to going to work each and
every day for the last nine years.
I know that you have a lot of questions, but I thought it might
be helpful if I spent a few minutes discussing my preliminary goals
and objectives if I am confirmed as Chief Justice.
Beginning with the administrative aspects of the job, we as a
branch have to be proactive and engage in long term strategic
planning. Over the last five weeks I have had the opportunity to
think about and discuss with people a lot of very good ideas that we
must consider in order to make our branch stronger. My overriding
goal with respect to all of the ideas that I will discuss with you
today is to enhance the confidence of the public in our judicial
system. I am also hopeful that through increased communication and
cooperation between the branches we can achieve what we both want,
to provide the citizens of Connecticut with the best state court
system in the country.
Beginning with openness in the courts, which is now an express
part of our mission, as you are aware we are in the process of
making a number of changes to avoid secrecy and to assure that our
courts are more accessible to all.
As you are aware the judicial branch's public access task force
made a number of concrete recommendations to provide as much access
as possible consistent with the additional mission of the court to
resolve matters before it in a fair and timely manner. As you have
heard from Justice Borden several of them require legislative action
and several of them are really legislative policy decisions. I have
provided to the committee the most recent progress report as to the
status of these recommendations which I endorse. As you can see many
of them have already been implemented through vote by the judges and
administratively. The rules committee is actively working on those
initiatives that require rules changes in open meetings, there will
be a public hearing and the proposed rules will be presented to the
judges for approval in June. I also am pleased to tell you that if I
am confirmed I have requested and Justice Borden has agreed to
continue beyond his retirement date the task of overseeing the
implementation of the recommendations of the judicial task force to
ensure openness, accessibility and transparency. This will include
recommending to me future specific initiatives that the bench can
undertake. He has worked tirelessly over the last year on openness
initiatives and should be thanked for his efforts in this regard.
A number of the judicial committee meetings have been opened to
the public and information regarding the time and place of these
meetings is available in a clear manner on the judicial website
every day. The Appellate and Supreme Courts have voted on and agreed
to increased electronic coverage of oral arguments in the Supreme
and Appellate Courts. The Supreme Court has a new protocol for
better viewing of these arguments. The Judicial-Media Committee is
up and running. I am told by Judge Lavine that the first meeting
which is designed to improve communication between the judicial
branch and the media was very productive. The super secret sealing
of files has stopped and this chapter is drawing to a conclusion
with Judge Beach's decisions regarding the files.
I want to conclude my remarks about openness by saying that while
we continue to look at ways to assure openness in the system, it
should not be forgotten that any citizen can walk into any
courthouse and watch our judges at work, with the exception of the
Juvenile Court. My experience as a presiding and an Appellate Judge
is that the Superior Court judges every day make extremely difficult
decisions in an open forum in a fair, impartial, and just manner and
to the best of their ability.
Another area that we must focus on is accessibility to the court,
because this aspect of our performance will also directly impact on
the public's confidence in the courts. Access is something that I
thought about a great deal while I was sitting on the Superior
Court. It is extremely important that when citizens, including the
lawyers, come to participate in court, they must be able to find
where they are supposed to go, they must be treated courteously, and
for someone who is non-English speaking they must be able to
understand what is happening. These are simple concepts but
The Court Service Centers have proved particularly helpful to the
pro ses and lawyers. In 2004, over 154,000 people used the resources
of these centers. However, we can do more.
In a related area, we also know that we must increase the number
of Court Interpreters that are available to assist limited-English
speaking individuals who come to court. We have an obligation to
ensure that people who come to court for what are often the most
important matters in their lives can fully understand and
participate in the court process.
In sum, there are courthouses in this state that are models for
accessibility and we need to take those models and do centralized
training to make sure that all of the courthouses provide the best
possible service to the people who use them.
If confirmed I want to refocus our efforts on helping judges to
improve their skills. It is essential that the Judges of Connecticut
be able to perform their functions and decide cases in an impartial
and independent manner based on the rule of law, that they not be
influenced by politics or fear that their decisions may not be
popular. This independence is essential to maintaining the integrity
of the system. Independence leads to impartial administration of the
laws and the protection of minority rights. I have never understood
the argument, however, that this means that judges cannot or should
not be mentored by other more experienced judges. I want to look at
how we can better assist our judges through mentoring and also how
we can provide a better evaluation process so that judges can
continue to improve their skills. I want to emphasize that none of
this means that anyone is going to tell a judge how to decide a
case. Instead my goal would be to find a way without infringing on
independence to provide judges with feedback that they can consider
and implement as they deem appropriate.
In order to maintain the public's confidence, we also need
to look at whether judges should be provided with a more formal
resource by which they can obtain advisory opinions regarding
judicial ethics questions that arise. Additionally we need to look
at our current Judicial Code of Ethics which has not been revised in
many years. The ABA code of ethics has just completed reviewing and
providing recommendations for some changes to its code which will be
a helpful starting point for us. If confirmed I have asked and Judge
Schaller and Judge Keller have agreed that they would be willing to
work on this proposal.
I want to comment briefly on diversity. The Judicial Branch has
had Affirmative Action and EEO plans for more than 25 years. During
that time, the percentage of minorities in the Branch workforce has
grown from 9.6 percent in 1983 to 25.8 percent by the end of 2006.
We have made strides in increasing minority representation in the
Branch over the past two decades, but we recognize that we cannot
rest on these successes. There is more to do and more progress to be
made. In particular, in initially reviewing the numbers, I believe
we need to do more to increase the number of Latinos in the
To maintain public confidence we need to decide cases
efficiently. I am happy to report that over the last 10 years the
number of pending civil jury and court cases has declined by half.
On the criminal side, dockets in the Judicial District and G.A.
courts remain stable as we are able to keep pace with incoming
Judges, Judge Trial Referees, members of the bar, state’s
attorneys, public defenders and Judicial Branch staff should be
commended for their efforts to reduce backlogs and manage the
courts’ dockets in a fair and expeditious manner.
We do have a small claims backlog. The jurisdictional amount for
small claims matters was increased on October 1, 2005, from $3,500
to $5,000. This has resulted in the number of small claims filings
increasing from 72,000 per year to 90,000 per year.
Also, over the past year, the Branch has centralized the
processing of small claims matters to standardize procedures, employ
new technology and to reduce the workload in Geographical Area
The centralized small claims office has struggled over the past
year because of the increase in small claims filings and staff
shortages. We are aware of the problem and hope to clear up the
backlog in the centralized small claims office by the end of May of
Finally, with regard to initiatives, I think it is time, as
Justice Callahan did in 1998, to create a Commission on Public Trust
and Confidence. This commission will determine the degree to which
our citizens have faith in the judicial system and provide proposals
to enhance public confidence.
If confirmed I look forward to going to each of the courthouses
in the State to discuss informally with the judges and other Branch
employees these preliminary ideas and any other proposals that will
help to strengthen our branch because as I started by saying we need
to refocus our thinking to be proactive.
I would like to speak briefly about my choice of a chief court
administrator, when Judge Lavery retires later this year, and the
deputy chief court administrator if I am confirmed. As I have
started to understand what my job will entail if confirmed, it is
apparent to me that these are extremely important positions if we
hope to reach the goals that I have outlined for you. I have not
made final decisions as to who will be selected for the positions of
Chief Court Administrator or Deputy Chief Court Administrator, but I
have given a lot of thought to the type of people I believe should
fill these roles. I have also had the opportunity to talk to past
and present chief court administrators as to the type of person who
is appropriate for these jobs. Based on these discussions, I believe
he or she must be someone who can listen well, can communicate
clearly and effectively, who will share my vision for the Branch but
who will not be afraid to tell me when they think there is something
I need to be told, who thinks innovatively and who has a clear
understanding of what issues the trial judges are struggling with
and who will give due consideration to how we can help them do a
better job and provide a better service to the public. Simply put,
the trial judges should not be afraid or reluctant to talk to their
administrative judges, chief administrative judges or the deputy and
chief court administrator, about concerns or new ideas that they
have of ways to do things better. Obviously the last piece of the
puzzle is that the team we assemble will clearly understand and be
capable of saying to me you need to consider these options and you
need to make a decision. At the same time, when the appropriate team
is in place, I plan to delegate the day to day decision making and
not get involved unless there is a policy issue that needs my
That leads to the final area that I would like to comment on. As
I started out by saying, I have had the opportunity to have
assignments that involved a lot of writing and in-depth analysis. I
am truly humbled by the possibility that I may have the privilege
and responsibility of deciding cases in this state's court of last
resort. Again, thank you for your patience and I would be happy to
answer any questions that you may have.