MAUREEN J. KHAN v. JONATHAN K. HILLYER, SC 18450
Judicial District of New London at Norwich
Appellate Jurisdiction; Whether the Trial Court's Ruling Finding the Plaintiff in Contempt, While Reserving Decision on the Issue of Sanctions, Constitutes an Appealable Final Judgment. In this custody action, the parties, who were never married, were awarded joint legal custody of their minor child, with primary physical custody with the plaintiff. The defendant later moved to open the judgment to obtain physical custody of the child. He also filed a motion for contempt, claiming that the plaintiff was denying him his visitation rights. On January 9, 2009, the trial court issued a decision referring the motion to open to the family relations office for a complete evaluation of the child's custodial situation. It then continued that motion to February 2, 2009, the date that the evaluation was to be completed. On the motion for contempt, the court found that the plaintiff was in contempt of the visitation orders. It noted that the plaintiff had been found in contempt of such orders on three prior occasions and that each time her sanction was to allow the defendant to "make up" visitation time. It determined that a similar sanction this time would be inadequate to deter the plaintiff from future violations. The court indicated, however, that there was no immediately obvious remedy and issued orders as a "partial response" to the motion for contempt that included placing the defendant and the child in a supervised visitation program with the goal that visitation be returned to the schedule originally ordered without undue delay. It continued the motion for contempt to February 2, 2009, and reserved further decision on the motion until it could review the family relations evaluation and any other relevant information. The plaintiff appealed from the court's decision finding her in contempt. The appeal was placed on the Appellate Court's own motion calendar for dismissal for lack of a final judgment because the trial court's ruling "did not completely resolve the motion for contempt. See Bucy v. Bucy, 19 Conn. App. 5, 7 (1989); but see Bryant v. Bryant, 228 Conn. 630, 636 (1994); see also State v. Curcio, 191 Conn. 27, 31 (1983)." After a hearing, the Appellate Court dismissed the plaintiff's appeal for lack of a final judgment. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will review the Appellate Court's decision.