RHONDA M. MARCHESI v. BOARD OF SELECTMEN OF THE TOWN OF LYME et al., SC 18890
Judicial District of New London
Administrative Appeal; Highways; Whether Parties Entitled to Trial de Novo in Appeal Taken Pursuant to General Statutes § 13a-40 from Decision of Board of Selectmen Defining Road Boundary. The plaintiff owns real property on Brockway Ferry Road in the town of Lyme. Several other owners of real property abutting the road filed a petition requesting that the town's board of selectmen define the boundaries of the road. The board decided that the road extended through and across the plaintiff's property, past the then existing western end of the road. The plaintiff filed an appeal from the decision to the Superior Court pursuant to General Statutes § 13a-40. Section 13a-40 gives the Superior Court authority to review the decisions of town selectmen defining highway bounds and to "examine the questions in issue by itself or by a committee, confirm, change or set aside the doings of such selectmen, and make such orders in the premises, including orders as to costs, as it finds to be equitable. . . ." The plaintiff moved for summary judgment. The defendants opposed the motion, arguing that summary judgment was not available because, in this administrative appeal, the court did not have authority to conduct a trial de novo. The defendants claimed that the court, instead, was limited to determining whether substantial evidence supported the board's decision. The trial court disagreed, finding that the motion for summary judgment was procedurally appropriate because, under § 13a-40, the parties were entitled to a trial de novo. The court then found that the plaintiff was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and rendered summary judgment in her favor. On appeal to the Appellate Court (131 Conn. App. 24), the defendants challenged, among other things, the trial court's conclusion that the parties were entitled a trial de novo. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment, finding that nothing in the plain language of § 13a-40 limits the authority of the trial court in its review of the board's determination. Rather, the Appellate Court found, the language of the statute unambiguously states that the court, examining the issues by itself, may change or set aside the board's decision and make any orders it finds equitable. The Appellate Court then noted that pursuant to Practice Book § 14-7 (d) (5), administrative appeals in which the parties are entitled to a trial de novo "follow the same course of pleading as that followed in ordinary civil actions," which course encompasses the motion for summary judgment. In this certified appeal, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's determination that the parties were entitled to a trial de novo in the Superior Court in an appeal taken from the board of selectmen of the town of Lyme pursuant to § 13a-40.