COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES v. LITCHFIELD HOUSING AUTHORITY et al., SC 18487

Judicial District of Litchfield

 

Housing Discrimination; Intervention; Whether a Complainant has the Right to Intervene in a Civil Action Initiated by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities Under General Statutes 46a-83. Letitia Kilby, who has several disabilities, is a tenant in a housing complex, which is owned by the Litchfield housing authority and managed by D & H Property Management, LLC (collectively, the defendants). On several occasions, Kilby requested that the defendants make certain accommodations in light of her disabilities. When those requests were denied, Kilby filed a complaint with the commission on human rights and opportunities, alleging that the defendants engaged in discriminatory housing practices in violation of Connecticut and federal law. The commission found reasonable cause to believe that the defendants had discriminated against Kilby, and, at the request of the defendants, it subsequently instituted a civil action in lieu of an administrative hearing pursuant to General Statutes 46a-83 (d) (2). Kilby filed a motion to intervene in the action, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Kilby argued that she was entitled to intervene in the action as a matter of right. The Appellate Court (117 Conn. App. 30) agreed and reversed the trial court's decision, holding that Connecticut's statutory scheme implicitly grants to a complainant the right to intervene in a civil action initiated by the commission under 46a-83 (d) (2). It explained that one of the purposes of Connecticut's statutory scheme is to provide substantially equivalent protections against housing discrimination as are afforded under the federal scheme, which, unlike Connecticut's scheme, expressly provides for a right of intervention in a civil action brought by the United States attorney general. It further opined that because Connecticut's scheme specifically gives a complainant the right to participate as a party in all of the other types of procedures that may be utilized to resolve discrimination claims, it would be irrational to hold that a complainant does not have such a right in the one procedure that happened to be selected in the present matter. The court also decided that interpreting Connecticut's scheme as providing for an implicit right to intervene in civil actions initiated under 46a-83 (d) (2) would further the important public policy of conserving public resources because the intervening complainants, as opposed to the commission, would shoulder the burden of prosecuting the discrimination claims in such civil actions. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that Kilby's motion to intervene should have been granted.