1. Who heads the Judicial Branch?
Under state law, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the head of the Judicial Branch and is responsible for its administration. See Section 51-1b of the Connecticut General Statutes. The chief court administrator is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Judicial Branch.
2. What does the chief court administrator do?
The chief justice appoints the chief court administrator to oversee the administration of the Judicial Branch. Section 51-5a of the Connecticut General Statutes outlines the duties and powers of the chief court administrator, who is assisted by the deputy chief court administrator.
The chief court administrator oversees five divisions within the branch: Administrative Services, Court Support Services, External Affairs, Information Technology, and Superior Court Operations. An executive director manages each of the five divisions and reports to the chief court administrator.
3. What is a chief administrative judge/administrative judge/presiding judge?
The chief court administrator appoints chief administrative judges to oversee the following Superior Court divisions: criminal, juvenile, civil and family, as well as judge trial referees. Their duties include working on behalf of and with the chief court administrator on policy matters affecting their respective areas.
The chief court administrator also appoints administrative judges and presiding judges. Administrative judges oversee the administrative operations of each of the state’s 13 judicial districts. In addition, each judicial district has an assistant administrative judge.
Presiding judges expedite the fair disposition of court business within a particular judicial district. They also apportion among judges the judicial business to which such judge and other judges have been assigned.
4. What is the organization of the courts?
The Supreme Court is the state’s highest court. It reviews decisions made in the Superior Court to determine if any errors of law have been made and also reviews selected decisions of the Appellate Court.
The Appellate Court, like the Supreme Court, reviews final decisions issued by the Superior Court to determine if errors of law have been committed.
State law specifies which types of appeals may be brought directly to the Supreme Court from the Superior Court, thereby bypassing the Appellate Court. These cases include decisions where the Superior Court has found a provision of the state constitution or a state statute invalid and convictions of capital felonies.
The Superior Court hears all legal matters except those over which the
Probate Court has exclusive
5. How are the Superior Courts structured?
The Superior Court hears civil, criminal, family and juvenile matters.
Connecticut has 13 judicial districts (JD) in which civil, criminal, family and juvenile matters are heard. Each “JD” has at least one JD courthouse and one “geographical area” court, although some judicial districts may have more than one GA court location. There are a total of 20 GA courts in the state.Civil jury, civil non-jury, administrative appeals and family matters generally are heard in a JD courthouse.
Regarding criminal cases, GA courts typically handle all arraignments. Each GA court receives criminal cases from a specified group of towns. Thus, where an alleged crime occurs determines in which GA the case will begin.
GA courts handle misdemeanors, felonies, and motor vehicle violations that require a court appearance. The most serious criminal offenses (i.e. capital felony, murder) are transferred from a GA to the JD level, commonly called “Part A.”6. What about housing and small claims matters?
In all other judicial districts, housing cases are part of the regular civil docket and are heard in the judicial district courts courthouses.
Small claims also is part of the civil division. More small claims information.7. Are Probate Courts part of the Superior Court?
The grievance process begins when a complaint is filed with the Statewide Bar Counsel. The Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office pursues those complaints before the Statewide Grievance Committee, in which there has been a finding of probable cause. The Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office also litigates disciplinary matters in court.
An attorney’s status, including the imposition of public discipline, if any, is available on the Judicial Branch’s website.11. Does the Judicial Branch oversee probation?
The Public Defender Services
Commission is the policy-making body and appointing authority for
the Division of Public
Section 51-289(j) of the Connecticut General Statutes says that the
commission is an “an autonomous body within the judicial department
for fiscal and budgetary purposes only.” Thus, while the commission
is part of the judicial branch, it is otherwise autonomous.
14. What is the difference between a state marshal and a judicial marshal?
Judicial marshals, who are part of the Judicial Branch, provide courthouse security and prisoner transportation. State marshals serve civil process and are overseen by the State Marshal Commission. Neither the state marshals nor the commission fall under the Judicial Branch’s jurisdiction.
15. Is the Office of Victim Services the same as the Office of Victim Advocate?
No. The Office of Victim Services (OVS), which provides compensation and other services to crime victims, is part of the Judicial Branch. Court-based victim advocates are part of OVS.
The Office of Victim Advocate (OVA) is an independent state agency that evaluates and monitors how crime victims are treated by the state’s criminal justice system. The OVA is not part of the Judicial Branch.16. What is the Centralized Infractions Bureau?
In 1990 certain violations became payable by mail to the CIB.17. What is the difference between an infraction and a violation?
1. How many judges are there?
Under Section 51-165 of the Connecticut General Statutes, the number of authorized judgeships is 201, including the justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of the Appellate Court.
2. How does a person
become a judge?
Under state law, the Judicial Selection Commission seeks and recommends to the governor qualified individuals for nomination as judges. The governor must choose a candidate from the approved list. The governor then refers his or her nominees to the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee for confirmation after a public hearing. Both chambers of the Legislature must approve the nominees.
If the legislature is not in session when the governor nominates prospective judges, interim appointments may occur. The prospective judge or judges appear before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee at a public hearing and may be approved by the committee as an interim appointment. During the next regular session of the General Assembly, the judge must again appear before the Judiciary Committee at a public hearing and then be approved by members of the Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Judges serve eight-year terms; upon expiration of their term, they may be reappointed. The Judicial Selection Commission, the governor, the Judiciary Committee and both chambers of the General Assembly, must again approve judges who are up for reappointment.
3. Does the Judicial Branch oversee the Judicial Selection Commission?
No. The Judicial Selection Commission (860-713-5300) is an independent, non-partisan commission of lawyers and non-lawyers appointed by the governor and the General Assembly to seek and approve qualified applicants for judgeships. The commission also evaluates incumbent judges who seek reappointment and forwards to the governor for consideration the names of those judges recommended for reappointment. The Judicial Selection Commission’s powers are outlined in Section 51-44a of the Connecticut General Statutes.
4. What is the Judicial Review Council?
The Judicial Review Council (860-566-5424) investigates complaints against judges and may initiate an investigation. Its powers and composition are outlined in sections 51-51k and 51-51l of the Connecticut General Statutes. The Judicial Branch does not oversee the Judicial Review Council.
5. What is a judge trial referee?
Age 70 is the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices, Appellate Court judges and Superior Court judges. Judge trial referees are judges who are 70 years or older and who have been designated by the chief justice of the Supreme Court to hear certain cases.
Senior judges have retired from full-time active service but have not reached age 70. Senior judges may hear matters, as assigned.
6. Who makes judges’ assignments? How often do they occur?
The chief court administrator, in consultation with the deputy chief court administrator, assigns Superior Court judges. These assignments generally occur annually and typically run from September of one year to the end of August in the succeeding year. However, reassignments also may occur during the court year. The Judicial Branch website lists the assignments of all judges as well as all of the judges at a particular court location.
7. How much do judges earn?
Judges' salaries are set by the Legislature and are outlined in Section 51-47 of the Connecticut General Statutes.
8. Will a judge comment on a particular case before him/her?
Rule 2.10 of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judge from making any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court. The rule specifically allows a judge to make public statements in the course of official duties, to explain court procedures and to comment on any proceeding in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity.
9. What is a magistrate?
A magistrate is a lawyer who is not a judge but who is authorized to hear and decide certain types of cases. For example, family support magistrates hear cases involving child support. In addition, there are motor vehicle/small claims magistrates. Please see Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-193l through 51-193u, and Section 44-30 of the Connecticut Practice Book."
10. What is the Committee on Judicial Ethics?
The Committee on Judicial Ethics is appointed by the Chief Justice to issue formal and informal advisory opinions to judicial officials regarding their ethical and professional conduct. Its opinions are based on its interpretation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, court rules and state statutes. Four of the Committee’s members are judges or judge trial referees, and one of its members is a law professor specializing in professional ethics. The committee posts its activities on the Ethics Committee webpage, which also includes its annual reports, membership, minutes and agendas, and policy and rules.
1. I’m awaiting a ruling from the
Connecticut Supreme Court on a case that I’ve been following. What’s the
best way to get the ruling?
The best way is to monitor the Judicial Branch website. You may access “advance release rulings” from both the Supreme and Appellate courts through the online media resource center or through the menu on the home page. The titles of rulings that are to be released on a particular day are posted at about 8:30 a.m.; the text of the rulings is available after 11:30 a.m. on the same day. The Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries’ Newslog posts when advance release decisions will be posted. You may want to subscribe to the Law Libraries’ RSS feed.
2. When will the Supreme Court release a
There is no date set for the release of a Supreme Court ruling. We recommend that you monitor the Judicial Branch’s website on a daily basis if you are waiting for a ruling from either the Supreme or Appellate Court.
3. I have some questions regarding the
Supreme Court’s ruling and what it means. Can I get an explanation?
Judicial Branch personnel cannot provide a legal opinion, interpretation of a law or a comment regarding court rulings. We recommend that you either contact the parties in the case or an organization for attorneys.
4. What other information regarding the
Supreme and Appellate courts is available online?
The dockets of the Supreme and Appellate courts are accessible through the website. In addition, case information for Supreme and Appellate cases filed after Jan. 1, 1991 is available online. This information includes case status, trial court case information, names of the attorneys and parties, transcript and exhibit information, the due date of briefs as well as information about motion, order and transfer activity. In addition, Supreme Court briefs may be accessed online.
5. What information is available online
about Superior Court cases?
Information regarding criminal, motor vehicle, civil, family, housing and small claims cases is available online. Please see the Case Look-up section for more information.
Disclosable documents relating to court orders and notices in civil cases are accessible through the Judicial Branch website. Members of the public may access the documents via the individual cases summaries that are available through the Civil/Family Case Lookup section of the website. Exceptions are: sealed cases, cases containing sealed documents; and cases that are not posted electronically because of the Federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005.
In addition, documents in civil cases filed after Dec. 5, 2009, are available through Judicial Branch computers in Superior court courthouses, regardless of where the case actually is pending. Documents in the case that have not been sealed in accordance with the law are viewable on these computers, which may be accessed either outside of the clerk’s office or in the court service center or both. Printouts of the documents are available through the clerk’s office at $1 per page.
Criminal/motor vehicle Case Lookup includes convictions, daily dockets and pending cases. Additionally, there is a lookup page for arrest warrants for violation of probation or failure to appear, and orders to incarcerate.
The Case Lookup for criminal, motor vehicle, family, housing and small claims matters does not include actual documents from court files. Youthful Offender cases, juvenile cases, and infractions and violation convictions are not displayed.
6. How up-to-date is the “Case Lookup”
Case information includes all data entry completed by the close of business the previous day, so the most up-to-date information may not have been added when you look up a case. The best way to determine the most recent action in a file that is disclosable is to go to the clerk’s office and review the file.
7. Where can I get an individual’s criminal history?
Each criminal and motor vehicle charge resulting in a conviction within the past 10 years is included in the Judicial Branch’s conviction database available through the website.
Convictions for infractions and violations, and unvacated forfeitures of bail or collateral deposited to secure a person’s appearance in court in non-motor vehicle cases are not included in the database.
Please note that this criminal history record information may change daily due to erasures, corrections, pardons, and other modifications to individual criminal history record information. The Judicial Branch cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information except with respect to this date.
The official source for an individual’s full criminal history is the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
8. How do I obtain statistics?
The Judicial Branch has a statistics page covering a wide variety of topics and may provide you with the information that you need.
If you are seeking statistics that are not included in the statistics page, please call the External Affairs Division at 860-757-2270. It the request involves a specific state statute, please also provide the statute number. In addition, we need to know how many years worth of data you are seeking and whether you are inquiring on a statewide or local level.
9. How can I find out information about a pending case?
For criminal, civil, family, housing and small claims cases that are disclosable, limited information may be available through the Case Lookup section of the Judicial Branch’s website.
Documents that are disclosable in a criminal case file may be obtained through the clerk's office in the courthouse where the case is pending. Copy fees are $1 a page.
10. How do I obtain documents in cases that have been disposed?
Chapter 7 of the Connecticut Practice Book provides retention schedules for files and records. These rules outline what may or may not be available in a file once it is disposed, and for how long the information will be available.
For all types of files, you should start by contacting the clerk’s office in the judicial district where the case originated to determine whether the file you are seeking is still there and/or disclosable. The clerk’s office may inform you that the file has been sent to the Superior Court Records Center, located at 111 Phoenix Ave., Enfield. In that event, please obtain the following information from the clerk’s office to provide to the records center:
The following information is necessary for the records center to locate a record:
The phone number at the records center is 860-741-3714.
Please note that information regarding disposed of cases may not be available because of state erasure laws Chapter 961a, “Criminal Records,” Part 1, Erasure, of the Connecticut General Statutes.
Please also review the Superior Court Records Center brochure. PDF
11. How do I obtain a transcript of a court hearing?
Requests for transcripts of any court proceeding must be made by filling out a Transcript Order — Non-Appeal form (JD-ES-262). PDF
There is a fee for transcripts set forth in Section 51-63(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes.
12. What is a PSI? Can I get a copy?
PSI stands for presentence investigation. Section 54-91a(a) of the General Statutes says:
“No defendant convicted of a crime, other than a capital felony, the punishment for which may include imprisonment for more than a year, may be sentenced, or defendant’s case otherwise disposed of, until a written report of investigation by a probation officer has been presented to and considered by the court, if the defendant is so convicted for the first time in this state; but any court may, in its discretion, order a presentence investigation for a defendant convicted of any crime or offense other than capital felony.”
Section 54-91a 9(c) of the General Statutes outlines what information may be
included in a PSI.
It is not uncommon for court officials – the judge, prosecutor or public defender, for example – to refer in open court during a sentencing to information contained in the PSI. A PSI, however, is not disclosable to the public, pursuant to Section 43-9 of the Connecticut Practice Book.
13. Can you confirm whether someone applies for the alcohol-education program?
Certain diversionary programs in criminal court require that a file be sealed once a defendant applies for the program. These are statutory sealings; in other words, the Legislature put in the requirements for sealing. The court and court personnel are bound by these requirements.
When someone applies for the pretrial alcohol-education program, Section 54-56g of the General Statutes requires that the file be sealed. At that point, Judicial Branch personnel cannot confirm whether someone has applied for the program or not.
14. Does the Judicial Branch run the pretrial alcohol-education program?
No. The state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services runs and contracts for the program.
15. Are there other diversionary programs available to defendants?
Yes, there are. They are outlined in "A Guide to Special Sessions & Diversionary Programs in Connecticut". PDF
16. What information is available regarding investigative grand juries?
Please see Section 54-47e of the General Statutes.
1. What does the term “court file” mean?
For purposes of this guide, the term, court file, refers to the official record of the court and includes all the pleadings, exhibits, orders and word for word testimony that took place during the trial. (Not every court file contains each and every item cited herein.)
2. What information is contained in a court file pertaining to a criminal or motor vehicle matter?
The contents of a file depend on the nature of the case and the charges (see Connecticut Practice Book Section 7-13 for more detailed information). The file’s contents may include, inter alia, the following documents:
3. What information is contained in a court file pertaining to a civil or family matter?
The contents of a civil or family file depend on the nature of the case and the allegations. The file’s contents may include the following documents;
4. Are records of juvenile matters open to the public?
Generally, all records of cases of juvenile matters are confidential. Certain exceptions apply. For example, the record of the case of a juvenile matter involving delinquency proceedings or any part thereof, shall be available to the victim if the crime committed by such child to the same extent as the record of the case of a defendant in a criminal proceeding in the regular criminal docket would be available. (See C.G.S. 46b-124.)
1. What are the rules regarding sealing of court documents/closing of courtrooms?
Please see the Connecticut Practice Book for these rules: Sec. 11-20, Sec. 11-20A, Sec. 11-20B, Sec. 25-59, Sec. 25-59A, Sec. 25-59B, Sec. 42-49; Sec. 42-49A.
2. How do I know when a motion to seal a
file or to close a courtroom has been filed?
A notice of motions to seal documents and to close proceedings in family, civil and housing matters is posted on the Judicial Branch website.
For criminal cases, please see sections 42-49(e) and 42-49A(f)(1) of the Practice Book.
3. How long is an arrest affidavit sealed?
Please see Section 36-2(b), (c) and (d) of the Practice Book.
4. Can I get a copy of the probable-cause document the judge referred to in court?
Please see Practice Book section 37-12(d) which reads: "Unless the judicial authority entered an order limiting disclosure of the affidavits submitted to the Judicial authority in support of a finding of probable cause, whether or not probable cause have been found, all such affidavits, including any police reports, shall be made part of the court file and be open to public inspection and copying..."
5. Under what circumstances would a clerk’s
office or records center respond that there is no public record of a case?
The following situations could apply:
6. Do the state’s Freedom of Information laws apply to the court?
Under state law, the state’s Freedom of Information laws apply with respect to the administrative functions of the Judicial Branch.
The Connecticut Practice Book and state statutes govern court access, records and proceedings.
7. What is the Connecticut Practice Book? How can I get a copy?
The Judicial Branch’s Commission on Official Legal Publications publishes the Connecticut Practice Book annually. It contains the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Rules for Superior Court, and the Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Practice Book is available on the Judicial Branch’s website.
8. How are the rules in the Connecticut Practice Book made?
The Rules Committee of the Superior Court, which is composed of judges, considers proposed changes in the rules of practice and may recommend amendments.
If the Rules Committee decides to pursue a proposed change, a public hearing usually is held at the end of May. After the public hearing – and if the committee recommends the proposal for adoption – it then goes before the entire bench for a vote at its annual meeting, which usually occurs in June. The judges' annual meeting is open to the public. If the judges decide that circumstances require adopting a new rule or a rule change between annual meetings, the procedures in section 1-9 of the Practice Book set out the mechanism for doing so.
9. How do I find what time and where a Judicial Branch meeting will occur?
The Judicial Branch's meetings, agendas and minutes are posted on the Judicial Branch website.
1. What are the rules regarding cameras in court? PDF
3. Can I bring in my cell phone? It has a camera.
Yes, individuals are allowed to bring their camera cell phones into Judicial Branch facilities. However, they may not use their phone to take pictures. View a complete listing of rules regarding electronic devices in the Superior or Appellate courts. Also view Section 1-10 of the Practice Book.
4. Can I use my laptop in court?
Under Section 1-10(a), "Personal computers may be used for note taking in a courtroom. If the judicial authority finds that the use of computers is disruptive of the court proceeding, it may limit such use. Other electronic devices in court facilities are subject to policies promulgated by the chief court administrator." See The Use and Possession of Electronic Devices in Superior Court Facilities. PDF
1. What kinds of cases are handled in Juvenile Court?
Child protection, delinquency, Family with Service Needs and Youth in Crisis cases are handled at Connecticut’s 12 Juvenile Court locations.
Child Protection involves cases of neglect, termination of parental rights and emancipation. These matters typically involve the filing of an action or a petition at the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters. Usually the state Department of Children and Families – the agency responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect – files the petition.
Delinquency: A child or youth under age 16 may be convicted as delinquent if he or she has violated any federal or state law or municipal or the violation of any order of the Superior Court other than the commission of certain infractions or violations or a motor vehicle violation for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed. See Adult and Juvenile Offenses for 16-year-olds. PDF
In many towns, police may divert a case to a juvenile review board. These boards generally are limited to misdemeanor cases and situations where police believe the matter may be resolved with mediation or short-term intervention. Not every town has such a board.
Family With Service Needs: Status/non-criminal offenses (that is, Runaway, Truancy, Beyond Control) committed by a juvenile before 16 years of age or, as of January 1, 2010, before reaching 17 years of age.
Youth in Crisis: Status/non-criminal offenses committed by a juvenile 16 to 17 years of age or, as of January 1, 2010, before reaching 17 years of age.
2. What is the Child Protection Session?
The Child Protection Session is located at the Middlesex Judicial District Courthouse, 1 Court Street in Middletown. It serves as a statewide juvenile trial court, accepting child protection cases referred by local juvenile court judges. The referral criteria include: age of the case, significance of the action (termination of parental rights is the most important), and complexity of the case.
3. What information is available regarding the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters?
Generally, all records of cases in Juvenile Court are confidential under Section 46b-124 of the Connecticut General Statutes. The Judicial Branch may provide general administrative information about Juvenile Court, for example, the number of cases handled annually, budget, types of programs, etc.
4. Where can I get basic information about the role and functions of Juvenile Court?
Sections 46b-120 through 46b-150h of the Connecticut General Statutes may provide the basic information that you are seeking.
5. What’s a youthful offender?
Youthful offender status is available to 17-year-olds charged with criminal offenses. The status applied as well to 16-year-olds as well, until they came under juvenile jurisdiction effective January 1, 2010.
Youthful offender status is not available for all offenses; under state law, certain crimes – a class A felony, for example - -are excluded.
All youthful offender cases that cases that come to court are automatically sealed unless and until they are ordered returned to the regular adult docket.
Effective July 1, 2012, juvenile court jurisdiction was extended to 17-year-olds charged with crimes.
6. Are juveniles ever handled through adult court?
Child Protection, Delinquency, Family With Service Needs, and Youth in Crisis cases are handled at Connecticut’s 12 juvenile court locations.
7. Does the Judicial Branch operate detention centers for juveniles?
The Judicial Branch runs two juvenile detention centers, one each in Bridgeport and Hartford. These are pre-trial (cases not yet adjudicated) facilities.