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Judiciary bills would bring changes to judge appointments, court transcripts and divorces

January 5, 2019

Judiciary

The Judicial Branch’s Act Concerning Court Operations addresses a myriad of topics, from the appointment of judges when the General Assembly is not in session to the eventual outsourcing of court transcript production and the placement of sexual assault examiners in Connecticut hospitals.

The legislative proposal attempts to clarify that the General Assembly would have to act on nominated judges and family support magistrates by the sixth Wednesday following their nomination by the governor when lawmakers are not in session. Confusion about the deadline for action arose in October 2017, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated Appellate Court Judges Maria Araujo Kahn and Raheem L. Mullins to the Supreme Court, and nominated Judge William H. Bright Jr. to fill a vacancy on the Appellate Court, according to Melissa Farley, executive director of the External Affairs Division of the Judicial Branch.

Under the proposal, the Judicial Branch will begin positioning itself to outsource the production of court transcripts once the current contract with court recording monitors expires in June 2021. The court monitors are paid extra to produce transcripts when requested by a private party. In November 2018, the branch began offering audio recordings of court procedures to the public for 489,149 grant from the Stamford-based Herbert and Nell Singer Foundation, administered by the New York City-based Center for Court Innovation. The state Office of Policy Management also has granted $101,396 to cover program costs through June 30, 2019.

Geographical area courts in New London, Norwich, Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury are participating in the program, and the division is working with the Center of Court Innovation to complete a status report that is due to the General Assembly on Feb. 1.

Brian Austin Jr., executive assistant state’s attorney, said the program has garnered interest and support from Gov.-elect Lamont’s criminal justice transition team and a Judicial Branch task force working on responses to the opioid crisis. The program, staffed by per diem prosecutors and local social service providers, including, locally, Reliance Health, seeks to identify lower-level offenders who would be best served, along with the public, by being steered into services and treatment rather than prosecution.

“We’re trying to do data-driven policy,” Austin said Friday. “We’re collecting significant amounts of information about the individuals who are being screened and diverted and putting it into spread sheets.”

k.florin@theday.com

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