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Appellate Court to Travel to Litchfield

The Connecticut Appellate Court will travel to Litchfield High School on Friday, April 30, 2004, to hear oral arguments in two cases Ė one criminal and one civil. The exact location of the session will be in the Litchfield Intermediate School auditorium, located on the high school campus.

Attending the oral arguments will be students from Litchfield High School. The Honorable Anne C. Dranginis, the Honorable Thomas G. West and the Honorable Alexandra D. DiPentima will sit on the panel.

The Courtís appearance at Litchfield High School is part of an ongoing educational initiative of the Connecticut Judicial Branch to acquaint students, educators, and the general public with the role and responsibilities of the court system. Prior to the Courtís visit, members of the Litchfield County Bar Association will visit Litchfield High School to educate the students about the role of the Appellate Court and to introduce them to the cases that will be argued.

"We believe that having the students attend Appellate Court oral arguments assists them in understanding the appellate process in Connecticut," Chief Judge of the Appellate Court William J. Lavery said.

Oral arguments in the first case, Malloy v. Town of Colchester, will commence at 9:30 a.m. This is a civil matter. On October 23, 1998, the plaintiff, James Malloy, hit a horse with his motor vehicle and suffered serious injuries. As a result, Malloy sued the town of Colchester and various town officials for negligently failing to prevent the horse from roaming onto the street, despite years of complaints from various residents about roaming animals, including dogs, pigs, sheep and horses.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and apportioned liability among the various defendants. The trial judge set aside the juryís verdict and concluded that the defendants were not responsible to the plaintiff to prevent roaming horses. Furthermore, even if the town was responsible, the doctrine of governmental immunity protected the town and officials from the lawsuit. The plaintiff filed an appeal to the Appellate Court, arguing primarily that the trial judge improperly set aside the jury's verdict.

The second case, to be heard at 10:30 a.m., is State v. Abraham. This case involves the right to be tried before an impartial jury. The defendant, Matthew Abraham, was charged with murder and criminal possession of a pistol. On the fourth day of the trial, one of the jurors was approached by an individual who had been sitting behind the defendant. This conversation made the juror feel nervous, and he informed the court that he could no longer be fair and impartial. He also admitted that he discussed the incident with the other members of the jury, including the alternates. This juror was excused from the case.

The defendant moved for a mistrial, claiming that the remaining jurors could not be fair and impartial after learning about this incident. After the court and counsel questioned the remaining jurors and the alternates about their continuing ability to be fair and impartial, the court denied the defendantís request for a mistrial. One of the alternates was selected to replace the departed juror. The defendant now argues the court improperly denied his motion for a mistrial.

At the conclusion of oral arguments in each case, attorney Judith Dixon, president of the Litchfield County Bar Association, will moderate a question and answer session during which the students will be permitted to ask the lawyers involved in the cases about their objectives and strategies.

Cameras are permitted during the question and answer sessions, but not during oral arguments or while the Court is in session.

To help the screening process and movement of traffic in and out of the school auditorium, it is recommended that guests not bring laptops, briefcases, pocketbooks or bags.

For information, please contact either Jim Senich or Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, Managers of Communication, at 860-757-2270.

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