Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
March 18, 1998
John M. Bailey, Esq.
Chief State's Attorney
300 Corporate Place
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Dear Attorney Bailey:
You have asked for my opinion with regard to a question raised by the state auditors on the propriety of an expenditure made by the Criminal Justice Commission. It is my understanding that your request was prompted by a recommendation made by the auditors, who concluded that it appeared that the Division's June 1996 reimbursement of legal fees to a State's Attorney in connection with his reappointment to that position in 1988 may have circumvented the intentions of the General Assembly with respect to the total monies approved for payment to the State's Attorney by the Claims Commissioner. For reasons explained below, it is my opinion that the Criminal Justice Commission's award is barred by the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-148(c).
The documentation which you have provided to me reveals the following facts that are relevant to your inquiry. In 1988, the State's Attorney incurred $15,135 in attorney's fees in connection with his successful attempt to obtain reappointment to that position. Thereafter, the State's Attorney filed a claim against the state, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 53 of the Connecticut General Statutes, seeking reimbursement for the full amount of his attorney's fees. During the February 1990 Session of the General Assembly, the legislature accepted the Claims Commissioner's recommendation "that no award be granted to [the claimant] on his claim against the state in excess of seven thousand five hundred dollars". House Joint Resolution No. 29. The State's Attorney was therefore paid $7,500 by the Claims Commissioner pursuant to the General Assembly's action. On June 5, 1996, at the request of the State's Attorney, the Criminal Justice Commission voted to reimburse the State's Attorney an additional "$7,500 for expenses incurred for legal representation in connection with his previous appointment as State's Attorney". The State's Attorney thus received reimbursement totaling $15,000 as a result of these two awards.
Chapter 53 of the General Statutes (Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-141, et seq.) sets forth the procedure for bringing a claim against the State of Connecticut. Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-148(c) provides that "[n]o claim cognizable by the Claims Commissioner shall be presented against the state except under the provisions of this chapter. Except as provided in section 4-156,1 no claim once considered by the Claims Commissioner, by the General Assembly or in a judicial proceeding shall again be presented against the state in any manner." The clear language of 4-148(c) prohibits the presentation in any other forum of claims previously considered by the Claims Commissioner. In our opinion, the State's Attorney's claim, having previously been considered in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 53, could not lawfully have been presented to the Criminal Justice Commission and we therefore agree with the auditors' conclusion that "[a]n excess payment of $7,500 was made to the claimant."
Very truly yours,
Margaret Q. Chapple
Assistant Attorney General
1 Section 4-156 provides a detailed procedure for rehearing based on the discovery of new evidence, and is not relevant here and was not followed in this case.