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How Does the Connecticut Superior Court Work?

The Connecticut Superior Court is a trial court with general jurisdiction. The court has jurisdiction over all cases, excluding cases under the original jurisdiction of the Probate Court. It also hears appeals from the Probate Courts and reviews decisions by the courts to determine if errors of law were made during court proceedings. The Superior Court has four major trial divisions, namely civil, criminal, housing, and family.

Civil Division

The Civil Division handles matters where one party sues another to protect civil, personal, or property rights. Some examples of typical civil cases include automobile or personal accidents, landlord-tenant disputes, product or professional liability suits, and contract disputes. Typically, most civil cases involve the accusing party (plaintiff) seeking to recover money damages from another party (defendant). A judge or jury may handle these cases depending on the nature of the claim and the parties’ preference.

Criminal Division

A criminal case is one where a defendant is accused of breaking the law. There are two sides in a criminal case, including the defendant and the state. The state is represented by a state attorney because crimes are regarded as acts that infringe on the rights of the state. The Criminal Division hears crimes, including felonies, misdemeanors, violations, and infractions. These cases are heard in one of the 20 geographical area courts.

Housing Division

Cases relating to housing are heard in special housing sessions in the Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford-Norwalk, New Haven, and Waterbury judicial districts. In other judicial districts, these cases are part of the regular civil docket.

Family Division

The Family Division is responsible for the resolution of family relations and juvenile matters. Some examples of family relations matters include the dissolution of marriage, relief from abuse, child custody, and family support payments. Juvenile matters include delinquency, child abuse and neglect, and termination of parental rights.

The Superior Court also holds the following special sessions:

  • Child Protection Session
  • Community Court in Hartford
  • Complex Litigation Docket
  • Domestic Violence Dockets
  • Housing Session
  • Regional Family Trial Docket
  • Tax and Administrative Appeals Session
  • Land Use Litigation Docket

Child Protection Session

The Superior Court session for Juvenile Matters is located in the Middlesex Judicial District Superior Court at 1 Court Street, Middletown. The court serves as a juvenile trial court for the entire state, overseeing child protection cases referred by local juvenile court judges. The referral requirements include the age of the case, the gravity of the action (termination of parental rights is the most essential), and the complexity of the case. If the court accepts the case, the Department of Children and Families offers transportation to Middletown to parents who need it.

Community Court in Hartford

The Community Court under the Hartford Judicial District Superior Court hears a wide range of cases. These cases typically include:

  • Simple possession of marijuana
  • Criminal mischief
  • Breach of peace
  • Larceny (shoplifting)
  • Criminal trespass
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Prostitution
  • Threatening
  • Solicitation of prostitutes
  • Public nuisance
  • Public drunkenness
  • Excessive noise
  • Illegal liquor possession by a minor
  • Illegal vending.

In most cases, defendants are issued a summons and may be arrested and required to appear at the Community Court within two working days of being arrested. The Community Court also accepts cases from Avon, Bloomfield, Farmington, Canton, and West Hartford. For more information, contact the court by fax at (860)756–7025, or send an email to Hartford.Commcourt@jud.ct.gov.

Complex Litigation Docket

These are dockets for civil cases with multiple litigants and legally challenging matters or multi-million dollar claims for damages, available in Hartford, Waterbury, and Stamford. Cases accepted are designated to an individual judge, who oversees all aspects of the case. For more information about the Complex Litigation Docket, refer to Facts About the Connecticut Judicial Branch Complex Litigation Docket

Domestic Violence Dockets

Domestic Violence Dockets resolve domestic violence cases using a vertical case management approach. Its teams are composed of prosecutors, domestic violence victim advocates, family relations counselors, and law enforcement representatives who organize case processing through regular meetings. Defendants are mandated to return to court frequently to ensure compliance with court orders.

Regional Family Trial Docket

This is a special docket in the Middlesex Judicial District, which hears visitation and contested custody matters transferred from Judicial Districts in the state. One judge presides over and handles the docket. The docket speedily decides contested cases without interruption. Cases are transferred to the Regional Family Trial Docket by the family presiding judge only when they meet the program requirements. The case must be child-focused and ready for trial. Also, an attorney must have been appointed for the children, and a family relations case study must have been completed, not exceeding nine months old.  

Tax and Administrative Appeals Session

This session was established to handle municipal and state tax appeals, and also handle appeals from state administrative agencies following the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (CGS sec. 4–166 et seq.). It is situated at New Britain Superior Court, 20 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. For more information, visit the website.

Land Use Litigation Docket

Based in the Hartford Judicial District at 95 Washington Street, the docket is responsible for adjudicating specific land use cases. The following types of land use cases are considered for transfer: 

  • Planning/zoning;
  • Inland/Wetlands/Environmental Enforcement;
  • Affordable Housing Appeals (will be referred to the land use docket and reassigned as applicable); and
  • Miscellaneous land use litigation

Counsel or self-represented persons may file an application for referral using the JD-CV–129, Application for Case Referral—Land Use Litigation Docket form.  Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) variances, easements, and quiet titleS will not be accepted for transfer to the docket at this time.

There are 13 judicial districts of the Connecticut Superior Courts, which have at least one courthouse and one geographical area court. The Superior Court has senior judges, state referees, judge trial referees, and family support magistrates, who serve together with the Superior Court judges. These judges are qualified to retire at the age of 65 or after serving for 20 years as a judge. Any judge that retires before the mandatory retirement age of 70 may become a senior judge. These judges may serve out their remaining terms at the court where they were appointed. A senior judge may be reappointed to successive terms until the age of 70 and will have the same powers as a superior court judge. The governor may nominate a successor for their seat on the bench when a judge takes senior status.

With some restrictions, a senior judge automatically becomes a state referee after turning 70. A state referee is a retired judge who continues in service. A judge trial referee is a subdivision of state referees who hear specific cases and are appointed for terms of not more than one year. Judge trial referees and state referees have the authority of a Superior Court judge on matters referred by the Superior Court.

The governor appoints family support magistrates for a term of three-year terms. Even though these magistrates perform some judicial functions, family support magistrates are not judges. The duties of the family support magistrates include hearing paternity, child, and spousal support matters.

All candidates vying for the position of a Superior Court judge must meet the following minimum eligibility requirements:

  • Must be below 70 at the time of appointment
  • Must be a citizen and resident of the United States and Connecticut
  • Must be licensed to practice law in the state

Persons interested in obtaining Connecticut Superior Court records may search online via any of these portals:

  • Superior Court Case Lookup
  • Civil / Family / Housing/ Small Claims
  • Criminal / Motor Vehicle
  • Housing Session
  • Centralized Small Claims Case Lookup

The Connecticut Superior Court locations and codes are as follows:

Ansonia - 14 West River Street, Milford, CT 06460AAN

Danbury - 146 White Street, Danbury, CT 06810DBD

Fairfield (Bridgeport) - 1061 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604FBT

Hartford - 95 Washington Street, Hartford, CT 06106HHD

Litchfield - 50 Field Street, Torrington, CT 06790LLI

Meriden - 54 West Main Street, Meriden, CT 06451NNI

Middlesex - 1 Court Street, Middletown, CT 06457–3374MMX

New Britain - 20 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051HHB

New Haven - 235 Church Street, New Haven, CT 06510NNH

New London - 70 Huntington Street, New London, CT 06320KNL

Norwich - 1 Courthouse Square, Norwich, CT 06360KNO

Putnam - 155 Church Street, Putnam, CT 06260WWM

Stamford - 123 Hoyt Street, Stamford, CT 06905FST

Tolland - 69 Brooklyn Street, Rockville, CT 06066TTD

Waterbury - 300 Grand Street, Waterbury, CT 06702UWY

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