Connecticut Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day For The First Time

For the past few years, I’ve dreamed small. My small dream was  to convince the Connecticut General Assembly to amend a statute honoring a man who dreamed big.

Last year, Connecticut General Statute Chapter 2 Section 1-4  read “the first Monday occurring on or after January 15th as ‘Martin Luther King Day.’”

The Federal Holiday is the “Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.” U.S. Code Section 6103(a).

For three years, I argued on this blog that the legislature should amend Connecticut General Statute 1-4 to read “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day”.  I went as far as submitting testimony to the General Assembly.

On June 12, 2012, in special session the General Assembly made exactly that change when it enacted Sp.Sess., P.A. 12-2, § 30.

Today for the first time that Connecticut is celebrating “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day”.

Insult to Injury: Connecticut’s Rape Kit Backlog

OLR (my favorite office in State Government aside from LCO) just completed a shocking report on Connecticut’s shameful rape kit backlog.

One of the great difficulties in representing someone who is the victim of a crime is explaining the length of time it takes to get reports back from the State. Despite all of the bluster one reads about State Government being too large, from my experience in dealing with all sorts of State agencies – staffing levels are bare bones which makes quick turnarounds of almost anything impossible.

With that in mind OLR’s Rape Kit Backlog report perhaps isn’t that shocking:

Two hundred five kits are waiting to be processed; the lab estimates that it will take more than six months to finish testing them. Another 40 have been processed through the first two steps and are awaiting DNA analysis. Given existing staffing levels, it will take the lab about five months to complete those analyses, reports Major Podgorski.

-Based on our comparison with a geographically diverse group of other crime labs, we concluded that the length of time it took Connecticut’s crime lab to complete sexual assault evidence testing, particularly in cases where the rape kit was submitted with other evidence, was significantly longer than that of other labs, except Rhode Island, whose turnaround time for testing rape kits without other evidence was six months, the same as Connecticut’s.

The report does say that “forensic lab staff triages cases daily, giving priority to aggravated sexual assaults and those with elderly or young victims”.

The report also details what legislative efforts other states have taken to reduce backlog. Hopefully the General Assembly takes steps to reduce the rape kit backlog during the 2012 legislative session because our current situation is shameful.

The Impulse To Legislate Everything

One of the reasons I started this blog, was to make the point that Connecticut has too many laws. We have all sorts of strange laws on virtually every issue imaginable. Sometimes these laws are benign in that for one reason or another there’s no enforcement. I’m sure many of these laws are well intentioned.

Enter the case of James Tate. Mr. Tate asked his date to the prom by taping large letters on the school. The school’s headmaster has barred Mr. Tate from attending the prom. From these humble beginnings in Shelton a national media issue was born.

I think Mr. Tate should be allowed to go to the prom. That’s my opinion.

From all I’ve see and read, Mr. Tate is a fine young man who has handled this situation with great maturity and perspective.

With the national media on the beat, it should come as  no surprise that legislation has been introduced that would allow Mr. Tate to attend the prom:

Under Perillo’s amendment, when a local or regional board of education intends to prohibit a student from attending any school-sponsored event that occurs within 30 school days prior to the final school session of the school year due to the student’s violation of a policy of the school district, the parents of said student must be provided an alternative option for punishment such as community service or a clean-up detail. New Haven Register.

The legislation would accomplish something that I agree with – namely that it would allow Mr. Tate to go to the prom.  However, this legislation is a symptom of a larger problem: here in CT there is a belief that any problem big or small can be solved through legislation.

For better or worse, whether or not Mr. Tate attends his prom,  is appropriately the decision of the Shelton High School administration.

The Nanny State Gets Nannier: Pet Chimps Banned

by Ryan C. McKeen

In the midst of a massive budget crisis, our State Legislature spent the final hours of its session debating…..get this……drumroll please…..passing a bill to protect stupid people from owning dangerous animals. Yep.  Can’t make this stuff up.

The bill would add only gorillas, chimps and orangutans to the list of wild animals already prohibited under existing state law: lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, ocelots, bobcats and other big, wild cats — as well as wolves, coyotes and bears. Hartford Courant.

My favorite part of the Courant article:

One issue that had stalled the bill’s progress, for example, was the proposed ban on wolverines. It turned out that ferrets, which many people own as pets, are related to wolverines, and ferret owners expressed concerns about that part of the bill……

Were legislators too scared to cross the powerful ferret lobby or they lacked the brainpower to distinguish between a ferret (big rat) and a wolverine (either the comic book hero or the animal that kills moose)?

The article goes on to say the bill does not ban cobras, crocodiles, elephants, and hippos.

That leaves the question: What protections are in place when a pet elephant stomps on an owner?

The answer: Just call his name a camera crew and Dick Blumenthal will be there.

Legislature to Hold Public Hearing on Same-Sex Marriage Law in the Wake of Kerrigan

When statutes and a supreme court ruling conflict the legislature should look at revising its statutes.

Uncertainty can make life uncomfortable for citizens, lawyers, and judges – it’s generally a bad thing.

Today, the legislature is holding a hearing on exactly what to do in the wake of Kerrigan. Link.

Proposed legislation would transform all civil unions into marriages by October 2010 and clean up statutory language restricting marriage between a man and a woman.

You can read the text of the bill here. The bill is called: “An Act Implementing the Guarantee of Equal Protection under the Constitution of the State for Same-Sex Couples.”

Congratulations to local bloggers at “Two Ladies In Waiting”  who are geting married on Saturday.

Gov. Rell’s Plan For Probate Court Consolidation

by Ryan McKeen

It’s also time for reform of our probate court system. Our system is antiquated and broken. I am proposing an overhaul that will reduce the number of courts, improve services and increase the hours of operation. It will also save money. Gov. Rell, 2/4/09

Here is the link to Governor’s Bill No. 6385 “An Act Concerning Reform of the Probate Court System.”

The bill, if passed, would result in a number of significant changes to Connecticut’s Probate Court System.

M. Jodi Rell
M. Jodi Rell

First, each judge of probate elected for a term that begins on or after January 5, 2011shall be a member of the Connecticut State Bar for not less than 10 years. I don’t think it’s that controversial that in 2009 we should expect our judges to have been seasoned attorneys. Of course, in the politics of probate court refrom, it seems everything is controversial.

Second, the bill calls for a consolidation of Connecticut’s probate courts from the 117 courts that we currently have to 36 probate courts by January 1, 2011.

The 36 new courts will correspond to the boundaries of state senatorial districts.

Judges will be elected. Governor Rell estimates that her plan will save the State 9 million dollars per year.

Here are my questions:

1. Will new facilities have to be built to house these consolidated courts? Most existing probate courts occupy small spaces in town halls. This would leave the probate courts with either building new facilities or having judges “ride the circuit.”

2. Will running for probate court judge require a candidate to campaign across a senatorial district? Running for State Senate is a lot of work as districts are large. In 2008, state senate candidates received $125,000 in public financing. Will probate judges be able to access public funds for a campaign?

Also, will the State dedicate enough resources to effectively implement consolidation. The consolidation of small claims courts has been an epic failure to this point. Connecticut can’t afford the same to happen to its probate courts.

If nothing else, the public hearings on probate court reform will be must see TV.