Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Sues To Prevent Illegal Land Grab Of Litchfield Charitable Agency's 160-Acre Property

November 25, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced today he is suing to stop a New York group from illegally seizing Litchfield property owned by the Connecticut Junior Republic and possibly transforming it into a facility for youthful sex offenders and severely troubled children.

Connecticut Junior Republic currently uses the property for educational and vocational programs to assist at risk youth academically, socially and emotionally. The charity has served troubled youth since 1904 at the 160-acre site, which includes a working farm, barns, dorms, a school, an administration building and a water treatment facility.

In May, the William George Agency for Children's Services, Inc., of Freeville, N.Y. cited a provision of a 1915 deed to move to confiscate the property. In a letter to the Attorney General's Office, the agency noted that it serves "high risk children," including sex offenders and severely disturbed kids, suggesting that the facility may be used for that purpose. Connecticut Junior Republic now serves less troubled youth and no sex offenders at the property.

As the state official responsible for protecting charity assets, Blumenthal argues that the William George Agency's interpretation of the deed is wrong and asks the court to declare Connecticut Junior Republic the property's rightful owner.

"I will fight this illegal, inexcusable and inexplicable land grab, threatening to cripple Connecticut Junior Republic's critical services," Blumenthal said. "This venerable, vital institution is endangered by this grossly inappropriate attempt to seize the property. The New York group apparently seeks to transform a school for kids needing support and structure into a facility for youthful sex offenders and severely disturbed, high risk youth. The William George Agency is threatening a model public service provider that has assisted thousands of troubled young people for more than a century.

"The William George Agency's unconscionable confiscation cannot stand. Connecticut Junior Republic is the property's rightful owner, and my office will vigorously and aggressively protect its rights.

"The court must teach this New York agency the lessons of good citizenship and respect that Connecticut Junior Republic instills in its children."

The George Junior Republic Association of Freeville N.Y., the William George Agency's predecessor, acquired the Litchfield property in 1900 through a will. The group was part of a national network established to care for unwanted and troubled children.

A separate Connecticut Junior Republic was created in 1904, and in 1915 the George Junior Republic Association of Freeville, N.Y. deeded it the Litchfield property. The deed returns the property to George Junior Republic Association of Freeville, N Y. or its successors if Connecticut Junior Republic fails to use it to assist troubled children.

Since it took over the property in 1915, Connecticut Junior Republic has been entirely separate and independent from the George Junior Republic Association and its successor, the William George Agency.

On May 22, 2009, the William George Agency, without contacting Connecticut Junior Republic, filed on Litchfield land records a claim and notice of forfeiture because Connecticut Junior Republic allegedly violated the 1915 deed. The group claimed that Connecticut Junior Republic's failure to operate a residential facility -- a temporary situation because of state budget cuts -- constituted a violation of the deed and authorized its seizure.

Blumenthal strongly disputes and opposes the New York group's claim and asks the court to declare invalid and ineffective the William George Agency's claim to the property.