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How Does the Connecticut Supreme Court Work?

Established in 1784, the Connecticut Supreme Court is the state’s highest court. The Connecticut Supreme Court reviews decisions and rulings from Superior Courts to determine whether any errors of law were committed in the course of court proceedings. It also reviews specified decisions of the Appellate Court. Typically, the Supreme Court does not receive evidence or hear witnesses. It decides each case based on the following:

  • The record of lower court proceedings
  • Briefs used by counsel to convey to the court the essential points of each party’s case
  • Oral argument based on the content of briefs

State law determines appeals that may be brought directly to the Supreme Court from the Superior Court, without first going through the Appellate Court. Such cases include convictions of capital felonies and verdicts where the Superior Court has found a provision of the state statute or a state constitution invalid. All other appeals are transferred to the Appellate Court.

The Supreme Court is authorized to transfer to itself any matter filed in the Appellate Court, and may agree to review Appellate Court decisions through a process called certification. Other than matters brought under its original jurisdiction, as determined by the State Constitution, the Supreme Court may transfer any pending matter before it to the Appellate Court. The Supreme Court has mandatory jurisdiction over the following types of cases:

  • Civil appeals
  • Criminal appeals 
  • Capital criminal appeals
  • Judicial discipline matters

The court has discretionary jurisdiction over civil appeals, non-capital criminal appeals, and administrative agency cases.

The Connecticut Supreme Court is composed of the Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. Along with the Chief Justice, the six justices sit in Hartford, across the street from the Connecticut State Capitol. The court typically holds eight sessions of two to three weeks each year. Sessions are held each month from September to November and January to May.

In a Supreme Court session, a panel of five justices hears and decides each case. However, during a hearing, the Chief Justice summons the court to sit en banc as a full court of seven, instead of a panel of five, to hear certain important cases.

Supreme Court Justices in the state are selected through the assisted appointment method. The governor nominates a candidate from a list of prospective judges forwarded by the judicial selection commission. The general assembly must confirm the person nominated by the governor. Each Justice serves an eight-year term and may be renominated to serve additional terms.

The mandatory age of retirement for judges in Connecticut is 70. However, after this age, a justice may continue in service as a judge trial referee, also referred to as a state referee, for the rest of their life. Note that before this, the judge must be renominated, reappointed, and continue to meet specific conditions. 

All candidates vying for the position of a 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

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may be chosen by the judicial selection commission, nominated by the governor, and certified by the general assembly. The Chief Justice, after appointment, has a term of eight years. Note that the governor is also authorized to bypass the commission and nominate an Associate Justice to serve as Chief Justice. In a case where an Associate Justice is elevated to the position of Chief Justice through this procedure, the Associate Justice will serve the remainder of their previous tenure for their first term as Chief Justice. 

Under Section 51–1b of the Connecticut General Statutes, the Supreme Court Chief Justice is also the head administrator of the state’s judicial branch.

Supreme Court Justices must be renominated by the governor to continue in service after their term expires. A nominee must appear before the committee of the senate judiciary at a hearing to be approved by the general assembly. The senate judiciary committee then makes a recommendation, and a vote is taken on whether to approve the nominee to serve an additional term.

If a Supreme Court judge is absent for any reason, a judge from the Appellate or Superior Court may be temporarily assigned to sit with the Supreme Court.

Persons interested in obtaining Connecticut Supreme Court records may search online via the Supreme and Appellate Court Case Look-up.

The Connecticut Supreme Court is located at:

231 Capitol Avenue, 

Hartford, CT 06106, United States

Phone: +1 860–757–2200

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