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How do Connecticut Courts work?

The highest legal authority in the state of Connecticut is the Supreme Court. It not only serves as the highest court in the state, but also oversees the decisions made by the Court of Appeals. This allows the Supreme Court to weigh in on important legal debates, questions, and precedents. The Court of Appeals carries out a similar function, overseeing the decisions made by courts below it when one party decides to contest. These lower courts are made up of the eight superior or trial courts across the state’s eight counties. Other tiers of court include the Appellate Court and the Probate Court.

Civil Cases and Small Claims

Connecticut court records are structured differently depending on whether it is a civil or small claims case. For example, civil court deals with cases in which the petitioner is seeking over $150,000. There are nearly 150,000 of these cases each and every year in the state. The civil court can also deal with non-monetary disputes, such as cases relating to name changes, restraining orders, and property. On the other hand, the small claims court deals with exactly that, small claims. Taking on cases in which the petitioner is seeking $5,000 and under, small claims court is not represented by counsel. There are close to 50,000 of these cases each and every year across Connecticut. These can include disputes over deposits, warranties, repairs, loans, and much more. The small claims court can also order a defendant into an action, such as repaying an amount of money.

Appeals and court limits

There are also a number of key differences between the court limits and appeals processes in small claims court and civil court. For example, pretrial discovery is only allowed in civil court, and not in small claims cases. Civil court also allows a person to hire a lawyer to both represent them and file papers on their behalf, but small claims court allows neither of these things. Either party can appeal a decision made in civil court, but only the defendant can appeal in small claims court. Small claims court cases have a filing fee of $30-$100, after which point each party is given 30-70 days to complete their case. On the other hand, civil court case filing fees range between $180 and $320, with each party being given up to 120 days to complete their respective case.

Why are court records public?

The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act was passed back in 1975, and aimed to guarantee that the public has access to all public records held by the government. All records held by either the state or local government can be accessed and copied by the state residents, as long as the information relates to the public’s business and people. The act stated that this was the fundamental right of everyone living in Connecticut. Not only does this promote a sense of transparency, but it also safeguards the accountability of the government.

To access records:

231 Capitol Avenue, Hartford 06106
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Connecticut Court Structure
Connecticut State Archives

State Archives

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Connecticut’s New London County Courthouse was built between 1784 and 1786. It is the oldest courthouse in the state.

  • The State of Connecticut has four different court types. They are the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court, the Superior Court, and the Probate Courts.
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court holds 7 judicial positions that must retire on reaching age 70. The court itself was established in 1784.
  • The Connecticut Appellate Court was created in 1983, and is composed of 9 Appellate Court Judges.
  • The Connecticut Superior Court is divided into 13 judicial districts that have at least one court per jurisdiction. They are divided into civil, family, housing, and criminal trial divisions.