Posts tagged with "dismissed"

School District Was Not on Notice of Inappropriate Teacher Conduct with Student; Negligence Action Dismissed

Seven years ago yesterday, the Superior Court of Connecticut in the Judicial District of Middletown handed down its decision in a lawsuit filed by a former student (plaintiff) against the Town of Clinton as well as the board of education. In this case, the plaintiff “brought a direct claim against the defendants, alleging failure to supervise and negligent supervision” in violation of state law,[1] leading to his sexual abuse by a teacher while he was in fifth, sixth, and seventh grades.

A municipality’s liability for negligent acts or omissions depends on whether they “require the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the authority expressly or impliedly granted by law.”[2] In other words, acts that must be performed by the dictates of State law, thus prohibiting discretion, may result in liability if negligently performed; if discretion is permitted, liability will not attach unless one of three exceptions applies. Historically, Connecticut courts have held that “the duty of the defendant [school district] to supervise students is a discretionary, governmental duty.”[3] In addition, employer conduct with respect to failure to screen, hire, train, supervise, control, and discipline constitutes “discretionary acts as a matter of law.”[4]

In this case, the plaintiff contended that under Connecticut law,[5] the defendants “had no discretion not to conduct a continuous teacher evaluation.”[6] Though the defendants agreed with the statutory mandate, it asserted that “the manner in which such an evaluation is conducted is discretionary.”[7] The duty to act claimed by the plaintiff surrounded the use of the phrase “might have crossed the line,” stated by the teacher to a colleague in regards to her relationship with the plaintiff. However, the Court found that “[t]here was absolutely no other evidence presented… to suggest any other way in which the defendants would be in any way on notice of any inappropriate conduct between [the teacher] and the plaintiff.”[8] After further concluding that no exception to governmental immunity for discretionary acts applied, the Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Should you have any questions regarding school liability or any other education law matter, the attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioners and assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 52-557n.

[2] Id. at (a)(2)(B).

[3] Jane Doe v. Board of Education of the City of New Haven, 76 Conn. App. 296, 300 (2003).

[4] Hughes v. City of Hartford, 96 F. Supp. 2d 114, 119 (D.Conn. 2000).

[5] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-151(b).

[6] Lingos v. Town of Clinton et al., 2005 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2746 at 7.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 8.

Because State Presented No Proof Defendant Knew of Victim’s Unique Habit, Felony Murder Charge Was Dismissed

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut concluded that the State did not establish probable cause to prosecute a defendant for felony murder, and as such dismissed the charge.

In this case, the victim’s body was discovered in his apartment on August 25, 2005, and death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head. His leather pouch with money and personal identification were missing. The defendant admitted that she struck him several times in self-defense and took a fresh shirt from his closet because hers was covered with blood. Nonetheless, she was charged with murder, felony murder, robbery, and other violations of State law.

At trial, the victim’s daughter testified that she was at her father’s house on Father’s Day two months prior, at which point he gave her cash he retrieved from his freezer. She explained that her father “was in the habit of keeping cash in tin foil packets” in his refrigerator, freezer, sock drawer, and under the mattress. A neighbor confirmed the victim’s money-storing habits, but conceded she never actually saw the money. She also stated that prior to this incident she gave the victim $2,000. There was additional testimony that a thorough search of the victim’s apartment did not reveal any money in these secret locations. However, the victim’s daughter found two envelopes located in a jacket inside the victim’s closet. One envelope was for the neighbor and contained $1,400, while the other had several thousand dollars in cash. Furthermore, a search warrant was validly executed on the defendant’s residence, but none of the missing items were found there.

The defendant was charged with felony murder, which under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-54c reads as follows:

A person is guilty of murder when, acting either alone or with one or more persons, he commits or attempts to commit robbery [or another enumerated offense] … and, in the course of and in furtherance of such crime or of flight therefore, he … causes the death of a person other than one of the participants.

In this case, the State argued that the defendant killed the victim while attempting to rob him. Thus, in order to prosecute the defendant for felony murder, the State had to establish probable cause that “the defendant robbed [the victim], that is, that she stole his property through the use of force, and in the course of and in furtherance of the robbery, she caused his death.”

The State may introduce habit evidence “to prove that the conduct of that person… on a particular occasion was in conformity with that habit.” In this case, the habit in question was the storage of money by the victim in rather unorthodox locations, meant to prove that he “possessed money in such locations at the time of his death on or about August 24, 2005.” In light of this evidence, along with the missing wallet, his violent death, and the absence of money in these locations, the State asserted that “there exists probable cause to believe that [the victim] was killed in the course of a robbery.”

While the habit evidence in this case was admissible, the weight it would receive depended on two factors: “the invariability of the habit and… the timeliness of observations that the person was acting in accordance with that habit.” The Superior Court noted that the real question was whether the victim had money in his freezer on the day of the murder, not two months prior. It set forth other possible explanations for its absence, including the simple one of needing money and spending it, an inference bolstered by the amount short of the $2,000 given to him earlier. Another explanation was consolidation into a single envelope, located in the jacket.

Particularly damaging to the State’s case was that they presented no evidence that the defendant knew of the victim’s money-keeping habits. As the Superior Court concluded:

To accept the state’s theory of the crime, one would have to conclude that the defendant, with no advance knowledge of money locations, so thoroughly searched [the victim’s] apartment so as to discover money secreted in foil packets in his freezer and an old leather pouch that resembled a cosmetic case, but did not discover several thousand dollars in the pocket of a coat hanging in a closet. Such a theory is not reasonable. Particularly since the defendant admitted taking a shirt from the closet after the attack. On the other hand, to conclude that the defendant took only the pouch and freezer money because she knew of Mr. Gordon’s habits would be based on speculation because there was no evidence offered to prove such knowledge.

When faced with any homicide crime, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Where Defendant Evaded Responsibility Prior to Start of Probation, Termination of Accelerated Rehabilitation Was Not Warranted

In a recent criminal law matter, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk, Geographical Area 20 at Norwalk granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss the State’s action seeking termination of his participation in an accelerated rehabilitation program (Program).

In this case, the defendant was charged for several crimes, including reckless driving, operation of a motor vehicle with the intent to harass or intimidate, and operating under suspension. The defendant sought entry into the Program on August 4, 2004, but five days later, he was charged with evasion of responsibility, a violation of General Statutes § 14-224(b). On September 1, 2004, the defendant was granted participation in the Program and subsequently pled guilty to evading responsibility the following May. However, the State asked the Superior Court to terminate the defendant’s participation in the Program because he pled guilty during the probationary period.

Pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56(e), criminal defendants may seek entry into accelerated pretrial rehabilitation. The purpose of this Program is for criminal defendants to earn and assert the right to have their charges dismissed, so long as they satisfactorily complete the probationary period without violating any general or special conditions imposed. An example of a general condition, as found in this case, is not violating any state or federal criminal law. In his motion to dismiss, the defendant argued that the actions underlying the charge to which he pled guilty occurred on August 9, 2004, before the probationary period began on September 1, 2004. As such, he could not have violated the general conditions of his probation. The Superior Court agreed with the defendant, and further noted that “a violation of probation occurs when the probationer’s criminal conduct arises during the probationary period.” (Emphasis added.) Therefore, the motion to dismiss was granted.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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