Posts tagged with "legislative intent"

In Case Involving Lifetime Suspension of DUI Suspect’s Commercial Driver’s License, Hearing Officer Properly Applied Statutory Dictates

This past April, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed judgment dismissing a plaintiff’s appeal from the decision of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend his commercial driver’s license (commercial license) for life.

In this case, the plaintiff’s license was previously suspended in 2005 for six months pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-227b after he refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. He thereafter obtained a commercial license in 2009. On March 28, 2010, the plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. He failed several field sobriety tests, and two breathalyzer tests yielded results of 0.182 and 0.176, more than twice the legal limit. Therefore, the plaintiff was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of CGS § 14-227a. The DMV held a suspension hearing, where over objection of plaintiff’s counsel the court admitted a case/incident report prepared by the arresting police officer as well as an A-44 form, which is used in reporting OMVUI-related arrests. After making four statutory findings, the hearing officer suspended the plaintiff’s license for ten months and imposed a lifetime suspension on his commercial license.

The plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court, who dismissed the appeal. The plaintiff sought remedy with the Appellate Court, stating that the hearing officer erroneously admitted the A-44 form into evidence. He argued that the A-44 form did not disclose the implications of refusing or taking a chemical alcohol test as it related to his commercial license. In addition, the plaintiff contended that under CGS § 14-44k(h), the lifetime suspension of his commercial license was improper because “this statutory requirement does not apply… because he had not obtained a commercial driver’s license at the time of his first license suspension.”

Under CGS § 14-227b(g), a hearing officer must make findings of fact related to the following four inquiries: 1) whether the police officer had probable cause to arrest a person for OMVUI; 2) whether the person was arrested; 3) whether the person refused or consented to take a chemical alcohol test (with additional inquiries if consent existed); and 4) whether the person operated a motor vehicle. The Supreme Court of Connecticut has held that these are the only dispositive questions at a suspension hearing. In light of legislative intent, “[W]hether an operator was warned of the consequences of refusing to submit to chemical tests is not made one of the issues to be adjudicated.” In this case, it was immaterial that the plaintiff did not receive warnings regarding what would happen if he refused or consented to the breathalyzer test as it related to his commercial license. As such, the Appellate Court found that the plaintiff did not suffer prejudice by the A-44 form’s entry into evidence.

CGS § 14-44k(h) dictates the circumstances under which a person’s commercial license may be suspended. In reviewing the language of the statute, the Appellate Court noted the distinct lack of “language limiting application [of the statute] to suspensions ordered after [a] person has obtained a commercial driver’s license.” Therefore, if a person is twice charged with OMVUI, his commercial license may be suspended for life, though reinstatement is possible. The purpose of this statute is to further promote the legislature’s goal of protecting the public on our highways from “potentially dangerous drivers,” such as OMVUI offenders. In this case, the Appellate Court found that adopting the plaintiff’s interpretation of § 14-44k(h) would frustrate this purpose, and statute “means what is says” and was unambiguous. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, 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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Legislative Intent Key to Whether Punishments Violate Double Jeopardy Protections

Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, criminal defendants cannot receive two punishments for two crimes, which he asserts to be a single crime, arising from the same transaction and prosecuted in a single trial. To be entitled to this protection, a criminal defendant must show that the charges arise from the same act or transaction and that the charged crimes are, in fact, the same offense. However, the protection against double jeopardy is not absolute where the legislature intended cumulative punishment under two statutes, and this intent is articulated either on the face of the statute or through legislative history.

As an example of the interaction between these principles of law, consider a recent appellate case where a defendant was charged with both criminal possession of a firearm and criminal violation of a protective order. These charges arose out of a single transaction in Shelton on or about August 10, 2005, when defendant possessed a firearm despite knowing that he was subject to a protective order of the court. The defendant was charged and convicted under General Statutes §§ 53a-217(a)(3)(A) and 53a-223(a). On appeal, the defendant argued that these crimes constituted the same offense, since one could not have happened without having committed the other. As such, being convicted of and sentenced for both violated double jeopardy.

The Appellate Court credited the defendant’s argument, referencing a case where a defendant could not have violated his protective order without also committing the crime of trespass. However, the Court acknowledged that double jeopardy does not limit whether or not a legislature may split a single transaction into separate crimes, allowing the prosecution multiple avenues of charging in a single proceeding. In essence, multiple punishments are possible where there is one transaction.

The Court delved into the language of each statute and found that neither contained prohibitions on multiple punishments for the same offense. In fact, neither statute made reference to the other. At this point, the Court found the legislative history of § 53a-223 to be rather telling. Representative Michael P. Lawlor explained, “Once you’re subject to a restraining order or a protective order, you’re not permitted to have a firearm. In fact, you’re obligated to turn in your firearm within a relatively short period of time.” When asked what would happen in a case where a defendant violated both a protective order and another criminal statute, Representative Lawlor said that both statutes would apply.

The Court found that the defendant’s conviction for violating both §§ 53a-217(a)(3)(A) and 53a-223(a) was consistent with legislative intent to provide cumulative punishments for the single act of possessing a firearm in violation of a protective order. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

To speak with a criminal attorney call us at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation or reach out to Managing Partner Joesph Maya via email at jmaya@mayalaw.com.

State Supreme Court Creates Fourth Way to Confer Legal Parental Status: Intended Parents of Gestational Agreements

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Connecticut considered whether Connecticut law allows an intended parent, who is neither the biological nor adoptive parent of a child, to become the child’s legal parent pursuant to a valid gestational agreement.

In this case, the plaintiffs were domestic partners who entered into a written gestational agreement (hereinafter agreement) with the defendant, who would act as a gestational carrier using one of the plaintiff’s sperm and a third-party donor egg. This meant that the defendant would have no biological relationship to the child or children to whom she gave birth. According to the agreement, the defendant’s parental rights would be terminated when the child or children were born, and she would assist the plaintiffs in receiving replacement birth certificates naming the plaintiffs as the parents.

Prior to the expected delivery date, the plaintiffs brought an action seeking declaratory judgment that: 1) the agreement was valid; 2) the plaintiffs were the legal parents of the children; and 3) that the Department of Health (hereinafter Department) would issue replacement birth certificates listing them as the parents. The Department opposed this motion, stating the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the matter on multiple grounds. The trial court found that the agreement was valid, the plaintiffs were the legal fathers of the children, and the defendant was not the biological or legal mother. It further ordered a replacement birth certificate naming both plaintiffs as the parents, and the Department appealed.

Historically under Connecticut law, a person can acquire parental status through conception, adoption, or pursuant to the artificial insemination (A.I.D.) statutes. With respect to the third avenue, a child born as a result of A.I.D. is the child of the husband and wife who requested and consented to the use of this method. Our statutes and case law have established that gestational carriers who are not biologically related to the child being carried have no parental rights to that child. In this case, the Department argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claim, in part, because termination of the defendant’s parental rights was required before the non-biological plaintiff could be given parental status. However, the Supreme Court found that the defendant did not acquire parental status through any of the three avenues, and as such termination was not necessary.

Substantively, the Department claimed that General Statutes § 7-48a, which dictates the issuance of replacement birth certificates, allows only intended parents who are also the genetic parents of the children to gain legal status without first adopting. They argued that the non-biological parent plaintiff could not automatically obtain legal parental status without first adopting the children. To establish whether or not intended parentage was a valid fourth avenue to obtain parental rights, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court underwent an exhaustive analysis of the legislative intent. Ultimately, the majority determined that the legislative history of § 7-48a “effected a substantive change in the law and has created a new way by which persons may become legal parents.” Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that the legislature meant “to confer parental status on an intended parent who is a party to a valid gestational agreement irrespective of that intended parent’s genetic relationship to the children.” Therefore, the trial court did not err when it ordered the Department to issue a replacement birth certificate with both plaintiffs listed as parents.

Whether advancing or defending a motion involving a surrogacy or gestational agreement, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions, 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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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Consideration of Statutory Factors Not Required for Relocation Orders Made at Time Marriage is Dissolved

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Recently, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered, in part, whether the trial court improperly failed to apply relocation statutory provisions in an initial dissolution action. The judgment was affirmed in its entirety.

In this case, the plaintiff mother and defendant father were married for seven years, lived in Ridgefield, and had two minor children. The mother filed for divorce, and a pendente lite order was issued permitting her to relocate with their children to the Farmington area, finding this was in the children’s best interests. Approximately seven months later, the trial court dissolved the marriage, but then ordered that the children reside with the father. The court stated that the move to Farmington was not in the best interests of the children, and it was necessary for them to live in the Ridgefield area.

The mother first contended that it was improper for the court not to treat the pendente lite custody order as res judicata, or “a matter [already] judged.” However, the Appellate Court declined to review this claim. Appellate courts will not consider claimed errors unless the issue was raised at trial and ruled upon by the trial court adversely to the claimant’s position. Therefore, in this case, because the mother did not raise this claim in front of the trial court, she could not do so for the first time on appeal.

When a court considers a motion seeking relocation, it turns the three-part inquiry under General Statutes § 46b-56d: whether the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, to a reasonable location, and in the best interests of the children. Subsection (b) lists five non-exclusive factors a court shall consider in weighing the children’s best interests. In this case, the mother argued that the trial court did not properly apply these factors when it found it was in the best interests to relocate the children back to Ridgefield. The Appellate Court stated that § 46b-56d covers post-judgment motions to relocate, and neither case law nor legislative intent indicated that the factors also applied to relocation matters resolved at the time of the initial judgment for dissolution of the marriage. This case involved a relocation decision rendered when the marriage was dissolved, so consideration of the § 46b-56d factors was not mandatory or exclusive.

The Appellate Court found ample evidence in support of the trial court’s determination that relocation back to Ridgefield was in the children’s best interests. This included the inordinate amount of time the children spent commuting to visit their father and the insincere claim by the mother that she was supporting a strong relationship between the father and their children. Additional evidence included the mother’s unilateral actions regarding the move itself and changing the children’s pediatricians without consulting the father. The court noted that the children thrived in Ridgefield prior to the move. It was reasonable to determine that it was not in the children’s best interests to allow them to remain in Farmington. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

Whether advancing or defending a motion seeking custody, visitation, and child support, a divorced parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or JMaya@mayalaw.com.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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BEWARE THE CASUAL EMPLOYEE COMPLAINT!

The United States Supreme Court has just overturned long-standing law in the Federal Districts of Connecticut and New York with respect to employee claims of retaliation for registering a complaint with an employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“Act”). In this case note, we will tell you how the law has changed, and how employers should adopt changes in policy and procedure to protect themselves from a new and difficult-to-defend source of employment-related liability.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 and subsequently amended by the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Act sets forth employment rules concerning minimum wages, maximum hours, and overtime pay. The Act contains an anti-retaliation provision prohibiting the discharge of or discrimination against any employee who has “filed any complaint” related to the Act. In 1993, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (whose jurisdiction includes Connecticut and New York) decided
Lambert v. Genesee Hospital, 10 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 1993). There the Court held that “[t]he plain language of this [anti-retaliation] provision [of the Act] limits the cause of action to retaliation for filing formal complaints, instituting a proceeding, or testifying, but does not encompass complaints made to a supervisor.” Id. at 55. Such was the settled law within this Circuit until March 22, 2011, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 2011 U.S. LEXIS 2417 (2011).

In
Kasten, the Supreme Court conducted a thorough exegesis of the phrase “filed any complaint” in the context of whether the statutory language included oral, as well as written 2

complaints, and whether oral complaints thereby constituted protected conduct under the Act’s anti-retaliation provision. The case involved an employee who complained orally to his supervisor about the physical placement of time clocks so as to deprive workers of compensable time. The employee was fired soon after his complaint. The Supreme Court found the text of the statute to be inconclusive as to its meaning and harkened back to the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt and pre-World War II census data to further divine the Act’s legislative intent. The Supreme Court ultimately concluded: “[t]o fall within the scope of the antiretaliation provision, a complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it, in light of both content and context, as an assertion of rights protected by the statute and a call for their protection. This standard can be met, however, by oral complaints, as well as by written ones.”
Kasten at * 23. Left unanswered by the Court, however, is the actual level of clarity and detail required to elevate some employee “letting off steam” (e.g., to a supervisor at a Friday night, after-work happy hour) to the protected activity of “filing of a complaint.” Turning the already murky waters opaque, the Court offered this guidance: “[t]he phrase ‘filed any complaint’ contemplates some degree of formality, certainly to the point where the recipient has been given fair notice that a grievance has been lodged and does, or should, reasonably understand the matter as part of its business concerns.”

Lurking behind the Court’s holding is the spectre of an employee dismissed for cause suddenly recalling his prior oral complaint to his supervisor about violations of the Act, thus playing his anti-retaliation “get out of jail free” card. While the Supreme Court paid lip service to the requirement that an employer be given “fair notice” (albeit orally) of a claimed violation of the Act, it “[left] it to the lower courts to decide whether Kasten [the plaintiff-employee] will
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be able to satisfy the Act’s notice requirement.”
Id. at * 27. As of this point, there is no such lower court advice to depend upon, but there are steps an employer can now take to reduce its exposure to a fabricated, after-the-fact claim of employer retaliation.

Employee Handbooks or Company Policies and Procedures Manuals should be amended to require that all employee complaints to supervisors or management be written (even if anonymous) on a form prescribed by the employer and delivered to a specific location (e.g., suggestion box) or a designated member of management. A sample form should be appended to the Handbook or Manual as an Exhibit, and a supply of forms should be made readily (but discretely) available to employees. The Company needs to establish a usual, customary, and accepted practice of addressing only written employee complaints, irrespective of their subject, seriousness, or source. The complaint forms should be numerically serialized upon receipt and logged in so that there is no question as to whether or when it was received. In this way, the company can argue that the absenceof such a written complaint form raises a rebuttable presumption that no such complaint was ever made. It will thus deprive a discharged employee of the opportunity after he is fired to conjure up a “stealth” retaliation claim based upon a “phantom” oral complaint.

In the meantime, supervisors and management should be made aware that seemingly innocuous oral complaints from employees about wages and hours are sufficient to trigger the anti-retaliation provision of the Act and should be investigated and acted upon.
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The Attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. regularly draft or review Employee Handbooks and advise employers on the full spectrum of employment law and employer-employee relations. For additional information, call Robert Keepnews at (203) 221-3100.

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