Connecticut prosecutors would be required to appear for an annual review of their job performance data before the state Criminal Justice Commission under a bill given final passage Wednesday by a divided House of Representatives.
The proposal heads to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk on an 88 – 56 vote with four House Democrats joining every Republican member in opposition. The same bill cleared the Senate with limited bipartisan support earlier this month.
The bill builds on an existing law, which requires the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney to collect a wide swath of data on topics like case dispositions, plea agreements, demographic data, and use of diversionary programs.
During a floor debate, Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the bill would give the Criminal Justice Commission an opportunity to review the data from each of the state’s 13 judicial districts.
“There may be distinctions or differences that are apparent on the face of the data that is apparent from the numbers we’re currently collecting,” Stafstrom said. “Providing for these interviews of state’s attorneys are precisely the way you explain those discrepancies.”
Several Republican members argued against requiring those interviews, saying they amounted to an impediment for prosecutors trying to do their jobs.
“We have, over the last number of years, made … arresting criminals, prosecuting criminals, sentencing criminals much more difficult, in my humble opinion and we’re asking ourselves, why do we have such violence?” Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, said.
Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, unsuccessfully sought to amend the bill to make the annual reviews voluntary rather than a requirement.
“[The bill] mandates these individuals come before this other group, within the Executive Branch, to be grilled. That’s what we are essentially left with,” Fishbein said. “That’s public policy that I do not adopt because I think it can happen already.”
The proposal was a legislative priority of the Connecticut ACLU. The group’s policy counsel, Jess Zaccagnino, argued during a public hearing in March that states attorneys have not been answerable to the public or oversight agencies.
“If Senate Bill 1070 is passed, Connecticut will have more transparent prosecution with meaningful opportunities for both oversight and public input,” Zaccagnino said.