The Freedom of Information Commission filed a motion for dismissal Friday against the Community Watchdog Project’s recent appeal challenging the Commission’s conclusion in July that the identities of Elm City ID card holders should remain private.
The motion, written by FOI Commission Counsel Lisa Siegel, argues that the appeals court must dismiss the appeal because the CWP missed the deadline for filing the appeal with the Hartford-New Britain Superior Court — by 16 days. Dustin Gold, chief strategist for the CWP, conceded Saturday morning that “the appeals may be in trouble.”
Community Services Administrator Kica Matos, speaking for the city, said that “this seems like a pretty clear-cut case for dismissal,” but that it ultimately will be up to the court to decide.
In the motion, Siegel said attorney Patricia Cofrancesco, who handled the appeal for plaintiffs Gold and journalist Chris Powell, did not file the appeals brief with the state Superior Court clerk until Sept. 16, a full 16 days after the August 31 deadline. Siegel added that the Aug. 31 deadline was set by the 1988 Uniform Administration Procedure Act, which mandates a 45-day filing deadline after the commission has mailed its decision to the plaintiffs.
The motion for dismissal cites a 1993 Supreme Court case that states that fulfilling the deadline is “prerequisite to subject matter jurisdiction,” according to its unanimous decision. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the ability of courts to hear and decide a case.
A brief search by the News on Saturday revealed that this case has been used as precedent for state court decisions as recently as August 2008.
In July, the five-member FOI Commission found that to release the identities of cardholders would constitute a public-safety risk. The commission mailed the notice of its decision on July 17, starting the 45-day clock ticking.
Gold said he had “assumed” the appeals brief was filed with the court on schedule and “will talk to attorney Cofrancesco on Monday.”
“The attorney told me it might be something like a day late,” he said. Confrancesco also told him that “there are 45 days to serve all the parties notice [of the appeal], and then there’s a deadline at 60 with the court,” he said.
However, the precedent from 1993 holds that the 45-day deadline applies not only “to the service of an appeal” to the appropriate parties but also “to the filing of an administrative appeal” with the court clerk.
That would indicate, if the 1993 case holds in this instance, that the CWP’s appeal was over two weeks late.
Gold added that if, in fact, the appeals had been filed passed the deadline, “the court can throw it out.”
Cofrancesco did not respond to repeated requests for comment left Saturday afternoon on her office voicemail, with an office assistant and with Martin Echter, a fellow attorney at her office.
Matos said the UAPA “is pretty clear,” and she thinks the appeal will probably be dismissed.
City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga could not reached this weekend because she is attending an out-of-town conference.