Senior Associate Justice David Borden endorsed 35 of the 38 recommendations made by the Public Access Task Force on Sept. 15. One of the three recommendations, needed further research and two of them, “involve fundamental legislative policy, which should be left to the General Assembly,” Borden said Thursday as he briefed members of the media on his report.
Some of the recommendations that don’t need the approval of all the state’s judges include online access to daily criminal dockets, attendance records of judges, posting of criminal conviction information online, and a provision that makes clear note taking in courtrooms is permitted. Borden said all of these recommendations were already being worked on administratively. Borden said he approved other recommendations in the report, but is unable to implement them without a vote of all the state’s judges, while others will require action by the Rules Committee of the Superior Court before it goes to a vote of all the judges. Some of these recommendations include public access to police reports used to determine probable cause in criminal matters, a recommendation to rescind a rule that seals financial affidavits in uncontested divorce cases, expansion of television coverage of both the Supreme and Appellate Courts, and a pilot program to allowed expanded coverage of criminal proceedings. Borden said he remained optimistic the recommendations that need judicial approval would be approved. But a meeting in Middletown on Tuesday where about 30 judges voiced their concerns over the draft report seemed to paint a much different picture. On Wednesday during the governor’s Judicial Reform Commission public hearing, one member of Borden’s task force and several members of the media, told it that it needs to call for a constitutional amendment to implement these recommendations because the judicial branch will fail to do it themselves. Borden said Thursday that he would be “strongly opposed” to a constitutional amendment. A University of Connecticut Law Professor Richard Kay told the Judicial Reform Commission Wednesday that public hearing Wednesday, any changes adopted as a result of its report will remain in effect only as long as the judges accept them.Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell told Rell’s commission Tuesday that if the judiciary claims the power, not the legislature, to implement its recommendations “your work will mean nothing.” Borden said the court decision that gave the judicial branch the authority to set its own rules has ever been challenged. It’s unlikely the General Assembly would ever introduce an amendment to the state constitution because once it’s open for debate dozens of other laws certain groups wish to have codified will be brought forward and depending on which way the wind is blowing something may sneak in. During the last legislative session there was a call to reopen the state constitution to mandate contributions to the state’s teacher retirement fund and one that wanted to make eminent domain illegal in the state. “A constitutional amendment ought to be a matter of last resort,” Borden said. Click here to read the final report. And don’t forget to comment on this story. We want to hear what you have to say.