State courts downtown to merge in 2002

The consolidation of two New Haven Superior Courts should help to balance the scales of justice more efficiently.

Connecticut judicial officials have recently proposed combining Geographical Area Courts 6 and 8, which are located at 121 Elm St. in New Haven. The new arrangement, which takes effect in January, is expected to remedy a number of concerns facing the current court alignment.

The branch hopes that the merger of the dockets in GA 6 and GA 8 will permit a more effective resolution of cases. The Public Defenders’ and Prosecutors’ offices will be reconfigured to make the best sue of limited space. The state will also pursue the possibility of moving small claims and motor vehicle cases out of the courthouse to GA 5 and GA 9 courts.

Rhonda Stearley-Herbert, manager of communications in the judicial branch’s office of External Affairs, said GA 6 and GA 8 will be consolidated into a single court, GA 23.

“The judicial branch is always looking at ways to promote efficiency and use its resources wisely, and the consolidation of GA 6 and 8 makes sense,” Stearley-Hebert said.

Stearley-Herbert added that the idea has been around for awhile, and that Chief Court Administrator Joseph H. Pellegrino agreed with the consolidation plans after reviewing the proposal.

The consolidation of branches GA 6 and GA 8 is expected to solve a number of problems. Louis P. Fagnani Jr., clerk of GAs 6 and 8, said the separation of suburban defendants from New Haven defendants within the same courthouse has led to a perception of unequal justice.

“It is something that people have stated,” Fagnani said. “I do not necessarily agree with it. What happens is that GA 8 serves the coast, and [therefore] whites. But GA 6 has mostly black clientele. They’re in the same building, but people think that the justice is unequal.”

The proposal also states that court services are not provided at the same level to individuals whose cases are assigned to GA 6 as opposed to GA 8. Additionally, the proposal says that having two separate Geographical Area Courts in one building, with separate dockets, public defenders and prosecutors, is inefficient.

Connecticut is divided into 13 judicial districts and 22 geographical areas. GA 6 and GA 8 currently service New Haven, Woodbridge, Branford, East Haven, Bethany, Guilford, Madison and North Branford.

The consolidated court would serve all of the GA 6 and GA 8 towns. Additionally, individuals whose cases are assigned to GA 8 would be able to use the specialized courts. These courts, which include drug courts and domestic violence dockets, are currently available only to individuals whose cases are assigned to GA 6.

“At this time, we are still in the planning stages,” Fagnani said. “It is going to help us in many ways, by simplifying our workload and court work.”

Connecticut’s Superior Courts hear all legal controversies except those over which the Probate Court has jurisdiction. Its four principal trial divisions are civil, criminal, family and housing.

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