Friday, December 22, 2006

Much Less Than Honorable, Former Connecticut Supreme Court Justice William Sullivan

CONNECTICUT NEWS
Ex-Chief Justice Decides To Testify
Sullivan To Appear Before Judiciary Panel Despite Pending Appeal
December 22, 2006
By LYNNE TUOHY, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Former Chief Justice William J. Sullivan has reversed his stance and said he will voluntarily testify before the legislature's Judiciary Committee about his secret withholding of a controversial ruling on access to the courts.

Sullivan's change of heart raises more questions than it answers. First among them is whether the appeal involving the unprecedented subpoena for his testimony is now a moot issue. Sullivan maintains that it is. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and the co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee who issued the subpoena, asserted that it is not.

"In our view, the legislative subpoena is valid until the committee is satisfied that [Sullivan] has complied by testifying fully and truthfully. ... The litigation will be pending as well until that time," Blumenthal said Thursday.

"We strongly disagree with former Chief Justice Sullivan's contention that the appeal is now moot, and we have so stated to the court in a formal filing today," he added.

In a notice to the Supreme Court on Thursday, Sullivan's lawyers noted his willingness to testify during the Judiciary Committee's investigation into his conduct and stated, "In light of this, it would appear that the appeal is moot."

The court is not instantly embracing that notion. Instead, Appellate Judge Thomas Bishop, who presided over the panel that heard arguments in the case last month, directed lawyers on both sides to file briefs on whether the court should still rule on the issue. Those briefs are due Jan. 5.

Sen. Andrew McDonald and Rep. Michael Lawlor, the co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, issued a subpoena to Sullivan on June 22, compelling him to testify at a committee hearing June 27. Sullivan instead filed a motion to quash the subpoena and for a temporary injunction to bar Lawlor and McDonald from compelling his testimony. Superior Court Judge Dennis Eveleigh granted both last summer; Lawlor and McDonald appealed.

Sullivan's extraordinary conduct in holding up release of the opinion, admittedly to aid Associate Justice Peter T. Zarella's chances of succeeding him as chief justice, has spawned a series of extraordinary events. Because the other justices of the state Supreme Court were embroiled in the controversy to some degree, the court disqualified itself from hearing the appeal.

Instead, a panel of Appellate Court judges, headed by Bishop, heard arguments on the appeal Nov. 1 and was expected to issue a ruling any day now.

Sullivan's case to quash the subpoena was based on separation of powers issues, and Eveleigh ruled on that basis. The court held that the legislature - a co-equal branch of government - could not subpoena a sitting judge absent impeachment or confirmation hearings.

Curiously, in his letter Lawlor and McDonald dated Dec. 20, Sullivan asserts that it was his pending disciplinary hearing before the Judicial Review Council that the "impediment" to his testifying before the Judiciary Committee. He seems to have abandoned the separation of powers claim.

"The impediment to my testifying before your committee does not exist any longer, since my hearing before the Judicial Review Council has concluded and a decision has been rendered," Sullivan wrote.

The council concluded Nov. 17 that Sullivan had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by impugning the independence and integrity of the judiciary and by allowing his social or other relationships to influence his judicial conduct. The council suspended Sullivan, now a senior justice, for 15 days.

Sullivan has appealed the council's findings and sanctions, rendering even more bizarre his reliance on the conclusion of the Judicial Review Council's proceedings as the reason for his about-face about testifying.

Neither of Sullivan's attorneys, William Maum Sheehy and Robert J. Cooney, were available for comment Thursday.

McDonald found Sullivan's new stance to be confounding.

"He never ever claimed that the JRC's proceedings and his rights before the JRC could be jeopardized by his testimony [before the Judiciary Committee,]" McDonald said. "He didn't know there was going to be a hearing before the JRC when he filed his application for a temporary injunction. It's completely inconsistent with the factual history of the case."

Contact Lynne Tuohy at ltuohy@courant.com.

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Organized Crime has a free reign in Connecticut, these guys must have pissed somebody more important off



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