Testimony of Judge Barbara M. Quinn
Public Hearing - March 23, 2009
House Joint Resolution 99, Resolution Proposing An
Amendment To The State Constitution Concerning The Practices and Procedures
Of The Courts
Good afternoon, Senator Slossberg, Representative Spallone, Senator
McLachlan and Representative Hetherington, members of the General
Administration and Elections Committee. I am Barbara Quinn, and I am the
Chief Court Administrator of the Judicial Branch and I appear before you
today in opposition to House Joint Resolution 99, Resolution
Proposing An Amendment to the State Constitution Concerning the Practices
and Procedures of the Courts. This resolution would amend the
Constitution to provide the Legislature with the ultimate authority over the
procedural rules of the court.
Enacting a constitutional amendment is an extreme step that should be taken
only when it is absolutely necessary. For nearly two hundred years, since
Connecticut’s Constitution created the three branches of government, the
judiciary has made the procedural rules for the courts. We are not aware of
any issue that has arisen regarding the court rules that would necessitate a
change in this two centuries-old process.
The purpose of the court rules is to put in place procedures to ensure that
the constitutional guarantee of a level playing field is maintained. In many
ways, judges are similar to umpires in that they call balls and strikes
fairly, without influence from either team. This is the judge’s role in the
courtroom, and the rules put in place by our state judges re-enforce this
principle. Since judges are not elected, they do not need to solicit
campaign contributions. In fact, the ethics code specifically prohibits
judges from accepting contributions and from being involved with politics.
Transferring the rule-making power to the Legislature would subject this
power to political factors that should not be allowed to influence the
formulation of our rules of court.
Proponents of the proposal to inject the Legislature into the process of
adopting court rules often cite the need for the judiciary to be held
accountable. This is not an issue of accountability. The rule-making process
is open and allows for public input. All votes are taken in public. The
members, agendas and minutes of the Rules Committee are posted on the
Judicial Branch’s website. The public is welcome to attend all of the
meetings. Each proposed rule is subject to a public hearing, where comments
are invited from members of the public, the bar and the Legislature. The
Rules Committee submits its recommendations to all of the judges of the
Superior Court who discuss and vote on these proposals during an open
meeting that is often covered by CT-N (like the legislative sessions).
The Rules Committee also works closely with the members of the Legislature’s
Judiciary Committee to ensure that there is open communication. A special
meeting of the Rules Committee is held twice a year with members of the
Legislature’s Judiciary Committee to promote dialogue about potential rules
changes and to coordinate efforts. The first meeting is held early in the
process to inform the legislators about the potential rules changes that
will be discussed by the Rules Committee.
For these reasons, the Judicial Branch is opposed to this resolution to
amend the state’s constitution. It will politicize the rule-making process
and disregard the 200 year history of the judiciary making the procedural
rules of the court.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.