In 1638, the General Court established the Particular Court (often
called the "Quartet Court" because it was required to meet every three
months). While the General Court, later called the General Assembly,
controlled the administration of justice, the Particular Court was the
principal judicial body until the union of the New Haven and Connecticut
colonies and the granting of the Charter from Charles II in 1662.
In 1665, with the new Charter, the Particular Court was abolished and
two new levels of courts were established: the Court of Assistants in
1665, and the county courts one year later. Separate probate courts were
established in 1698 to handle such matters as wills and estates.
The Court of Assistants was abolished in 1711. Its powers of original
and appellate jurisdiction were assumed by the newly created Superior
Court, the forerunner of the sole trial court of general jurisdiction
which exists in Connecticut today.
Creation of an
During the period between
the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Connecticut Constitution
in 1818, significant developments in the direction of creating an
independent judiciary took place.
In 1784, the Supreme Court of Errors was created as the highest
appellate tribunal of the state, with the power to review lower court
cases based on a writ of error, a power previously held by the General
In 1818, the first Connecticut Constitution was adopted, setting forth
the doctrine of separation of powers and establishing the three separate
branches of government. This constitution created "... a Supreme Court
of Errors, a Superior Court, and such inferior courts as the general
assembly shall from time to time ordain and establish."
County courts were abolished in 1855 and their functions were
transferred to a strengthened Superior Court. As the volume of cases
continued to increase, however, the General Assembly found it necessary
to create a series of Courts of Common Pleas.
Justices of the
Justices of the Peace have
played a vital part in the judicial system, beginning in 1686. By the
end of the seventeenth century, justices were commonly authorized to
take jurisdiction over small actions. As towns were incorporated, the
General Assembly authorized the creation of town and borough courts in
order to handle small cases. Justices of the peace presided over these
In 1939, the trial
justice system was enacted, vesting the limited criminal jurisdiction
formerly within the power of all justices of the peace in specially
designated trial justices.
In 1921, Connecticut's first juvenile courts were established in several
towns, and in 1942, a state-wide Juvenile Court came into existence.
In 1941, the General Assembly enacted legislation to establish a single
Court of Common Pleas for the entire state with judges subject to
periodic reassignment on a statewide basis. Prior to this legislation,
judges sat only in the counties to which they had been appointed.
When the General Assembly abolished county government in 1960, the
municipal courts and trial justice system were replaced by a state-wide
Circuit Court. The three-level system of state, county and municipal
courts was dissolved in favor of a completely state-maintained system.
On December 31, 1974, the Circuit Court was merged with the Court of
Common Pleas. Circuit Court judges were elevated to the Court of Common
Pleas. This consolidation was followed four years later by the merger of
the Court of Common Pleas and Juvenile Court with the Superior Court on
July 1, 1978. Common Pleas and Juvenile Court judges became judges of
the Superior Court. The Superior Court thus
became the sole trial
court of general jurisdiction in the state, and Connecticut acquired the
first unified court system in the country.
In 1982, the state Constitution was amended to establish the
Court to help alleviate the caseload burden on the
Supreme Court. - (History of the
Appellate Court - PDF)