Last week, Connecticut’s Supreme Court overturned on process grounds a jury's decision that the state of Connecticut should pay $18.3 million to Computers Plus, a company that once operated out of East Hartford.
The jury found that the state – specifically, then quick-to-sue Attorney General Richard Blumenthal -- had defamed the owner of the company and violated her due-process rights. The jury’s multi-million dollar award should be taken as an indication of the depth of the state’s perfidy in driving Computer Plus out of business on a fraudulent claim of wrongdoing.
The jury award was later whittled down by another judge who, punitively in the interests of justice, moved the decimal point an integer to the left and reduced the jury’s award to $1.83 million.
Judges in Connecticut are loathed to incur the wrath of politicians, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had for 20 years been a very resourceful politician. Before Mr. Blumenthal killed Computer Plus, it ought to be noted, the company was a very successful woman owned small business.
Mr. Blumenthal is now a U.S. Senator in Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation. During his progress up the greasy pole, Mr. Blumenthal had crawled over heaps of bodies in order to arrive at his exalted position, one of them being the owner of Computer Plus, who did not take kindly to being defamed by Mr. Blumenthal and so sued him. The case was strong enough to have persuaded a jury of Mr. Blumenthal’s peers that he had wronged the lady, and the jury award was an attempt by ordinary citizens to make her whole, $18.3 being the value of the business destroyed by Mr. Blumenthal.
The lede for the story in CTMirror ran as follows:
“The Connecticut Supreme Court Monday [8/26/13] dismissed a small company's $18.3 million defamation claim against the state that became an issue in the U.S Senate campaign of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2010.”
Connecticut’s Supreme Court, we are told, “offered no opinion on the substance of the claims and counter-claims” decided by the jury. The high court instead “focused on the narrow question of whether the state, by suing the company for civil damages, had waived the immunity against civil lawsuits generally enjoyed by public officials and state agencies… In a unanimous opinion by Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr., the state's highest court concluded that sovereign immunity protected the state in the case. It set aside the reduced $1.83 million damage award, and dismissed all claims by Computers Plus.”
In its decision, the high court ruled that a private person unjustly deprived of property by the state must, before filing a suit, obtain from the state’s Office of the Claims Commissioner an approval to sue; the decision of the claims commissioner may then be appealed to the General Assembly. This process, which places decisions properly made by the judicial department directly in the hands of the legislature, is itself constitutionally questionable. One purpose of the litigatory merry go round is to frustrate aggrieved citizens from seeking redress directly from the judicial department. The high court ruling permitted the justices to over-leap the findings issued by the lower courts.
Case closed, next…
For some who have paid attention to high court decisions in which the political status of prominent politicians lies in the justice pans, the decision of the court in this instance is not surprising. But what are the real world consequences that follow upon the servility of courts to the political establishment? The commissioner of the Office of the Claims Commissioner, an executive agency, is J. Paul Vance, son of Department Spokesman/Media Relations Commander at Connecticut’s State Police. Mr. Vance reports to Governor Dannel Malloy, the state’s chief executive.
At a minimum, the highly politicized decision, masquerading as a finding that turns on a process point, is a firm indication to citizens of Connecticut who may in the future be harmed by high-handed suit-prone attorneys general that they cannot receive simple justice from the courts, because “the state” is encircled by a near absolute sovereign immunity so impenetrable to common sense and simple justice that it may only rarely be breeched -- not even by an aggrieved woman initially sued by the state upon whom once attorney general and now U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal had waged, according to a jury verdict, an unjust war in the course of which her company had been litigated out of existence by Mr. Blumenthal.
Really, one wants to respond with pikestaffs and pitchforks to the high court’s decision. The owner of Computer Plus – as well as the owners of all small businesses in Connecticut – has been told by the Supreme Court that she has no direct recourse to the courts after the state first initiated a suit against her.
No, instead of applying to the courts for succor in response to a state initiated suit since determined by a jury to be ill advised, the aggrieved and damaged owner of Computer Plus must first apply to politicians, the initial cause of the misery and near poverty brought upon her by ambitious, publicity hungry politicians on the make.
When apprised by an English court that the law supposed Mr. Bumble’s wife “operated under his direction,” Mr. Bumble, a character in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, erupted, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot.”
Under the new regimen imposed by the court, the state may invidiously sue a business; the owner of the business then must apply for judgment to an executive administrator who answers to the governor; should the owner wish to contest the judgment, he must apply to the General Assembly; and should the case proceed to trial, the state attorney general – the very agency that initiated the fraudulent suit – will prosecute the case in court.
The question before the general public is: How would the public know if its state were an idiot?