A panel of five justices hears and decides each case. On occasion, the
Chief Justice summons the court to sit en banc as a full court of seven,
instead of a panel of five, to hear particularly important cases.
The Supreme Court reviews decisions made in the Superior Court to
determine if any errors of law have been committed. It also reviews
selected decisions of the Appellate Court.
Generally, the Supreme Court does not hear
witnesses or receive evidence. It decides each case on:
- the record of lower court
- briefs, which are used by
counsel to convey to the court the essential points of each party's
- oral argument based on
the content of the briefs.
State law specifies which
types of appeals may be brought directly to the Supreme Court from the
Superior Court, thereby bypassing the Appellate Court. These cases
include: decisions where the Superior Court has found a provision of the
state constitution or a state statute invalid and convictions of capital
felonies. All other appeals are brought to the Appellate Court.
The Supreme Court may transfer to itself any matter filed in the
Appellate Court, and may agree to review decisions of the Appellate
Court through a process called certification. Except for any matter
brought under its original jurisdiction, as defined by the State
Constitution, the Supreme Court may transfer any matter pending before
it to the Appellate Court.
the Appellate Court - PDF
|The Appellate Court, like
the Supreme Court, reviews decisions made in the Superior Court to
determine if errors of law have been committed.
There are nine Appellate Court judges, one of whom is designated by the
Chief Justice to be Chief Judge. In addition, judges who are eligible
and who have not attained the age of 70 may elect to take senior status
and remain as members of the court.
Generally, three judges hear and decide each case, although the court
may also sit en banc, which means that the entire membership of the
court participates in the decision.
Like the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court does not hear witnesses, but
renders its decision based upon the record, briefs and oral argument.
The Superior Court hears all
legal controversies except those over which the Probate Court has
exclusive jurisdiction. Probate Court matters may be appealed to the
The state is divided into 13 judicial districts, 20 geographical areas and 12 juvenile districts.
In general, major criminal cases, civil
matters and family cases not involving juveniles are heard at judicial
district court locations. Other civil and criminal matters are heard at
geographical area locations. Cases involving juveniles are heard at
juvenile court locations.
Superior Court has four principal trial divisions: civil, criminal,
family and housing.
A civil case is
usually a matter in which one party sues another to protect civil,
personal or property rights. Examples of typical civil cases include
landlord-tenant disputes, automobile or personal accidents, product
or professional liability suits and contract disputes.
In most civil cases, the accusing party (plaintiff) seeks to recover
money damages from another party (defendant). Cases may be decided
by the judge or by a jury, depending on the nature of the claim and
the preference of the parties.
A criminal case is one
in which a person (defendant) is accused of breaking the law. The
two sides in a criminal case are the state, represented by a state's
attorney (because crimes are considered acts that violate the rights
of the entire state), and the defendant. Crimes (felonies and
misdemeanors), violations and infractions are heard in the Criminal
housing are heard in special housing sessions in the Bridgeport,
Hartford, New Haven, Stamford-Norwalk and Waterbury judicial
districts. In all other judicial districts, these cases are part of
the regular civil docket.
The Family Division is
responsible for the just and timely resolution of family relations
matters and juvenile matters. Examples of family relations matters
include: dissolution of marriage, child custody, relief from abuse
and family support payments. Juvenile matters include: delinquency,
child abuse and neglect, and termination of parental rights.
In addition to the state-operated
courts, Connecticut has probate courts, which have jurisdiction over the
estates of deceased persons, testamentary trusts, adoptions,
conservators, commitment of the mentally ill, guardians of the persons,
and estates of minors.
Each probate court has one judge, who is elected to a four-year term by
the electors of the probate district. Probate judges need not be
attorneys. They are paid for their services from court fees.