Feehan v. Marcone

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation204 A.3d 666,331 Conn. 436
Decision Date30 January 2019
Docket NumberSC 20216, (SC 20217), (SC 20218)
Parties Jim FEEHAN v. Rick MARCONE et al.

331 Conn. 436
204 A.3d 666

Jim FEEHAN
v.
Rick MARCONE et al.

SC 20216, (SC 20217), (SC 20218)

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued December 21, 2018
Officially released January 30, 2019*


204 A.3d 670

Proloy K. Das, Hartford, with whom were Matthew A. Ciarleglio, Bridgeport, and Kevin W. Munn, for the appellant in Docket No. SC 20216 and the appellee in Docket Nos. SC 20217 and SC 20218 (plaintiff).

Michael K. Skold, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was George Jepsen, former attorney general, for the appellants in Docket No. SC 20217 and the appellees in Docket Nos. SC 20216 and SC 20218 (defendant Denise W. Merrill et al.).

William M. Bloss, with whom were Alinor C. Sterling and Emily B. Rock, Bridgeport, for the appellant in Docket No. SC 20218 and the appellee in Docket Nos. SC 20216 and SC 20217 (intervening defendant Philip L. Young III).

Robinson, C.J., and Palmer, McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins, Kahn and Ecker, Js.

ROBINSON, C.J.

204 A.3d 671
331 Conn. 439

These expedited public interest appeals arise from an apparent mix-up at the Bunnell High School polling place in the town of Stratford (town), where it is alleged that approximately seventy-six voters who should have received ballots for the 120th assembly district election were instead given ballots for the 122nd assembly district, rendering those voters unable to vote for their assembly district's state representative. The plaintiff, Jim Feehan, who is the

331 Conn. 440

Republican Party's candidate for state representative in the 120th assembly district, brought this action seeking declaratory relief, a new election, and an injunction prohibiting the defendants, Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill, Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo (state defendants), from declaring the intervening defendant, Phillip L. Young III, the Democratic Party's candidate, as the winner of that election.1 After the Chief Justice granted the parties' separate applications for permission to appeal pursuant to General Statutes § 52-265a, the plaintiff appealed from the judgment of the trial court dismissing the complaint in part as barred by the elections clause set forth in article third, § 7, of the Connecticut constitution,2 and the defendants appealed from the grant of the plaintiff's application for a temporary injunction.3 We conclude that the elections clause gives our state House of Representatives exclusive jurisdiction over

331 Conn. 441

this election contest, and we disagree with the plaintiff's claims that (1) General Statutes § 9-328,4 which governs contested elections

204 A.3d 672

for "municipal office," confers jurisdiction on the courts over this case, and (2) under the supremacy clause of the United States constitution; see U.S. Const., art. VI, cl. 2 ;5 state courts have jurisdiction over his federal constitutional claims, notwithstanding

331 Conn. 442

the elections clause in the Connecticut constitution. Accordingly, we also agree with the defendants' claim that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enjoin the state defendants from canvassing the votes and declaring a winner. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the trial court insofar as it dismissed the complaint and reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to its issuance of a temporary injunction.

The record reveals the following facts, as alleged in the operative complaint, and procedural history. On November 6, 2018, the election for the state representative for the 120th assembly district took place. There were three candidates for that position: the plaintiff, who was endorsed by the Republican Party and the Independent Party, Young, who was endorsed by the Democratic Party, and a petitioning candidate, Prez Palmer. One of the polling places for the 120th assembly district was Bunnell High School, which also served as a polling place for the 122nd assembly district. At some point midday, a packet of ballots for the 122nd assembly district was distributed to voters in the voting line for the 120th assembly district. As a result, approximately seventy-six voters who received those ballots were unable to cast a vote for the office of state representative from the 120th assembly district.6 A voter

204 A.3d 673

detected the mistake and reported it to the moderator, who

331 Conn. 443

replaced the 122nd assembly district ballots with the correct ones and noted the incident in his log, allowing for investigation by the town registrar of voters after the election.

After the initial vote tabulation for the 120th assembly district, the vote count was 5217 votes for Young, 5199 votes for the plaintiff, and 55 votes for Palmer. Because there was a difference of only 18 votes between Young and the plaintiff, a statutory recanvass was required pursuant to General Statutes § 9-311a. That recanvass was held on November 13 and 14, 2018, and resulted in 5222 votes for Young and 5209 votes for the plaintiff, a difference of 13 votes. Palmer again received 55 votes.

On November 15, 2018, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the trial court, seeking the following relief: (1) "a declaration that, as a result of the errors committed at the Bunnell [High School] polling place and resulting disenfranchisement of voters in the 120th assembly district, a new election must be held for the office of state representative for the 120th [assembly] district"; (2) "a mandatory injunction requiring the defendants to hold a special election for the office of state representative in the 120th assembly district"; and (3) "a prohibitory injunction precluding [the state defendants] from declaring a candidate elected state representative in the 120th assembly district before a new election is held." The plaintiff subsequently amended that complaint to include claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the voters who received incorrect ballots had been deprived of their fundamental rights to vote and to equal protection of the laws under the United States constitution. In addition, the plaintiff filed an application for a temporary injunction7 barring the state

331 Conn. 444

defendants from canvassing the votes for state representative from the 120th assembly district or declaring the results of any such canvass.

After the trial court granted Young's motion for permission to intervene in the action as a defendant, he—supported by the state defendants—moved to dismiss the amended complaint8 for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that, under the elections clause of the Connecticut constitution, our state House of Representatives has exclusive jurisdiction to resolve election disputes involving the election of its members. Young also objected to the plaintiff's application for a temporary injunction. The plaintiff objected to the motion to dismiss, contending that the trial court had jurisdiction

204 A.3d 674

to grant relief pursuant to § 9-328, and that he did not seek to challenge the final decision as to who won the election but, rather, whether the election was conducted under "procedures that comply with the General Statutes and the state and federal constitutions."

After conducting a hearing on the motion to dismiss the amended complaint, the trial court granted the motion in part with respect to the plaintiff's requests for a declaration and mandatory injunction requiring a new election for the office of state representative for the 120th assembly district.9 The court concluded that our state House of Representatives had exclusive jurisdiction over those matters pursuant to our state elections

331 Conn. 445

clause, even though the plaintiff had also asserted federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court granted, however, the plaintiff's request for a temporary injunction enjoining the state defendants from canvassing the votes or declaring the winner of the election pursuant to General Statutes § 9-319,10 reasoning that the "limited exercise of its jurisdiction over the application" for the injunction was necessary to maintain the status quo and to "ensur[e] that the House [of Representatives] has an opportunity to exercise its authority." The trial court rendered judgment accordingly. These expedited public interest appeals pursuant to § 52-265a followed.

We held oral argument in these appeals on December 21, 2018.11 Immediately after oral argument, we issued the following order: "After a hearing and based on the record and claims before the court, it is hereby ordered that the judgment of the trial court is affirmed insofar as it lacks jurisdiction at this time. In accordance with this determination, it is further ordered that the trial court's injunction is...

To continue reading

Request your trial
25 cases
  • State v. Jose A. B.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Marzo 2022
    ...omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Fay v. Merrill , 338 Conn. 1, 26–27, 256 A.3d 622 (2021) ; see, e.g., Feehan v. Marcone , 331 Conn. 436, 449, 204 A.3d 666, cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 144, 205 L. Ed. 2d 35 (2019).1Constitutional Language We begin with the first Geisl......
  • Fay v. Merrill
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 11 Febrero 2021
    ...underpinnings is required because we follow only persuasive decisions." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Feehan v. Marcone , 331 Conn. 436, 449, 204 A.3d 666, cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 144, 205 L. Ed. 2d 35 (2019) ; see State v. Purcell , 331 Conn. 318, 351–52, 203 A.3d 542......
  • In re Ivory W.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 31 Marzo 2022
    ...underpinnings is required because we follow only persuasive decisions." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Feehan v. Marcone , 331 Conn. 436, 449, 204 A.3d 666, cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 144, 205 L. Ed. 2d 35 (2019). Relying on the same federal cases that she relied on in sup......
  • State v. Patel
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Marzo 2022
    ...and sociological norms, or as otherwise described, relevant public policies. Id., at 685, 610 A.2d 1225 ; accord Feehan v. Marcone , 331 Conn. 436, 449, 204 A.3d 666, cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 144, 205 L. Ed. 2d 35 (2019).270 A.3d 643 The defendant concedes that the first, sec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT