A Waterbury Superior Court Judge was not impressed with a 35-page request for reconsideration and reargument of its denial to quash a subpoena that would force former Chief Justice William Sullivan to testify before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Judge Dennis Eveleigh ruled late last week “that the legal grounds for reargument have not been satisfied.” Eveleigh based his decision on a separation of powers argument. “First, the Court held that…the legislature may not encroach upon judicial affairs.” And second, Eveleigh, opined the independence of the Judicial branch would be undermined if a legislative body had the authority to compel a judicial officer to answer questions related to their official duties.
The legislature’s Judiciary Committee co-chairman, Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford and state Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, issued a legislative subpoena to force Sullivan to testify about his involvement in the delay of a decision he knew may impede legislative approval of Justice Peter T. Zarella to the position of chief justice. “Contrary to the court’s ruling, the separation of powers violation is not an intrusion by the legislature into the judicial sphere. It is the reverse, an intrusion and interference by the judicial branch into legislative authority. By this action, Sullivan sought to impede and usurp the legislature’s exclusive power to appoint judges,” McDonald, Lawlor, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a joint press release. “We’re disappointed and we think the issues warranted additional presentations to the court,” McDonald said Tuesday. “We’re reviewing our options as to how to proceed.” Lawlor said the two will have about 20 days to file an appeal. But it may all become mute, if the Judicial Review Council, in its own hearings on the matter, decides to suspend, admonish, or remove Sullivan from his position on the bench. Last month Sullivan was charged by the 12-member council with five separate ethics violations. The council could suspend Sullivan for up to a year. Sullivan has retired as chief justice and is currently a senior justice.The JRC will hold a public hearing on the charges against Sullivan Sept. 6. According to the Connecticut Law Tribune, Sullivan has filed a motion to dismiss the charges of misconduct brought against him in the case arguing the JRC has no jurisdiction over the discretionary acts of judges.Regardless of what happens in this specific case, the Judiciary Committee “can and will have a hearing on the matter” to try to find out why there was a delay in the release of the decision, Lawlor said Tuesday.