Scinto v. Stamm, No. 14538

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBORDEN; BERDON
Citation620 A.2d 99,224 Conn. 524
PartiesJohn J. SCINTO v. R. David STAMM et al.
Decision Date09 February 1993
Docket NumberNo. 14538

Page 99

620 A.2d 99
224 Conn. 524
John J. SCINTO
v.
R. David STAMM et al.
No. 14538.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Nov. 5, 1992.
Decided Feb. 9, 1993.

Page 100

[224 Conn. 525] John J. Scinto, pro se.

Carolyn K. Querijero, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom, on the brief, was Richard Blumenthal, Atty. Gen., for appellees (defendants).

Before [224 Conn. 524] CALLAHAN, BORDEN, BERDON, SANTANIELLO and F.X. HENNESSY, JJ.

[224 Conn. 525] BORDEN, Associate Justice.

The principal issues in this appeal are: (1) whether the grading procedures of the Connecticut bar examining committee are arbitrary and capricious and therefore violate due process of law; and (2) whether a bar applicant who receives a failing score on the bar examination is constitutionally entitled to a judicial hearing for the purpose of regrading the applicant's answers on the essay portion of the examination. The plaintiff, John J. Scinto, appeals from the judgment of the trial court denying his motion for summary judgment and granting the motion for summary judgment of the defendants, the Connecticut bar examining committee, and R. David Stamm, its administrative director. 1 We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The relevant facts and procedural history are as follows. In July, 1989, the plaintiff took the Connecticut bar examination and received a failing score of 262.79, [224 Conn. 526] which was below the standard passing score of 264. 2 The defendant then took the February, 1990 bar examination but again failed, receiving a score of 260.67. The plaintiff thereafter filed this petition in Superior Court seeking, inter alia: (1) a judicial hearing for the purpose of regrading his essay answers for the July, 1989 bar examination; (2) an injunction ordering the defendants to admit him to the Connecticut bar; and (3) a declaratory judgment that the defendants' regulations governing admission to the bar are invalid because they violate the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions.

The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's petition on the grounds that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because: (1) the doctrine of sovereign immunity barred the plaintiff's claims; and (2) the plaintiff's request for a declaratory judgment did not comply with Practice

Page 101

Book § 390(d) 3 since proper notice had not been given to other interested parties. While this motion was pending, the plaintiff moved for permission to amend his petition by adding a claim arising out of his failure to pass the February, 1990 bar examination. The defendants opposed the motion to amend, but later agreed to withdraw their objection on the condition that the pending motion to dismiss would be made applicable to the claim arising out of the February, 1990 examination.

The trial court, Thim, J., subsequently denied the defendants' motion to dismiss, ruling that the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not bar the plaintiff's claims [224 Conn. 527] and that the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the declaratory judgment claim because the plaintiff, pursuant to State ex rel. Kelman v. Schaffer, 161 Conn. 522, 528, 290 A.2d 327 (1971), was entitled to cure the lack of notice prior to a final judgment. The defendants then filed an answer to the plaintiff's petition denying all of the plaintiff's claims. 4 The defendants also asserted, by way of special defense, that the doctrine of sovereign immunity barred the action because "the allegations of the complaint do not clearly demonstrate an incursion upon constitutionally protected interests." The plaintiff then moved to strike the defendants' special defense, and subsequently the trial court, Thim J., denied the motion.

Both sides moved for summary judgment. The trial court, McGrath, J., denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment 42 Conn.Supp. 144, 605 A.2d 898. The trial court concluded that: (1) the grading procedures employed by the defendants were not arbitrary or capricious and therefore do not violate due process; (2) the plaintiff was not constitutionally entitled to a judicial hearing for the purpose of regrading his answers to the essay portion of the bar examination; and (3) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the declaratory judgment aspect of the plaintiff's claim because the [224 Conn. 528] plaintiff had not attempted to notify any interested parties pursuant to the requirements of Practice Book § 390(d). On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court improperly: (1) concluded that the grading procedures of the defendants are not arbitrary and capricious and therefore do not violate due process; (2) concluded that he was not constitutionally entitled to a judicial hearing for the purposes of regrading his answers to the essay portion of the examination; and (3) denied his motion to strike the defendants' special defense. 5

I

The plaintiff first claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion for summary judgment and improperly granted

Page 102

the defendants' motion for summary judgment because the grading procedures of the defendants are arbitrary and capricious and therefore violate his due process rights. We disagree.

In July, 1982, after several years of consultation with nationally recognized bar examination experts, the defendants extensively revised the format of the Connecticut bar examination. As revised, the examination consists of two parts: a multiple choice portion, administered in most states and known as the Multistate Bar Examination (multistate), consisting of two hundred questions; 6 and an essay portion consisting of twelve [224 Conn. 529] questions. The examination as a whole is designed to test the minimal competency of a candidate to practice law in Connecticut. The present system was designed to standardize passing scores, provide for consistency in grading and to protect against idiosyncratic grading and grading errors. There is no passing or failing score on either portion of the examination.

Grading of the essay answers is done so that the graders do not know the identity of the applicant whose answers they grade. Answers to the essay questions are graded on a scale from zero to seven. In most instances, all of the examination booklets containing the answer to one of the twelve questions are distributed among three graders. 7 Each grader assigns a score to one third of the answer booklets. In order to ensure uniformity and consistency in grading essay answers, the three graders for a particular question meet, prior to grading the essay questions, to develop a model answer and to agree upon the weight to be assigned to each component of the answers.

A candidate's multistate score is added to the candidate's converted score 8 on the essay portion of the [224 Conn. 530] examination to determine the total score. To pass the examination a candidate must attain a total score of 264. If a candidate's total score is within ten points, plus or minus, of the passing score, the essay portion of the examination is regraded by a different grader. If this second grader assigns the same score as the previous grader for a particular question, then that score becomes the final score for that question. If the scores of the two graders differ by only one point, then the two scores are averaged. If the two scores differ by more than one point, then the two graders read the answer for a third time and agree upon the final score for that question. If a candidate's score after this process is 264 or greater, then the candidate has passed the examination, and conversely, a candidate receiving a score below 264 has failed the examination. There is no limitation on the number of times a candidate who has received a failing score may retake the examination.

"The standard of review of a trial court's decision to grant a motion for summary judgment is well established. Pursuant to Practice Book § 384, summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and any other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue as

Page 103

to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Although the party seeking summary judgment has the burden of showing the nonexistence of any material fact; D.H.R. Construction Co. v. Donnelly, 180 Conn. 430, 434, 429 A.2d 908 (1980); a party opposing summary judgment must substantiate its adverse claim by showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact together with the evidence disclosing the existence of such an issue. Practice Book §§ 380, 381; Burns v. Hartford Hospital, [192 Conn. 451, 455, 472 A.2d 1257 (1984) ]. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Town [224 Conn. 531] & Trust Co. v. Benson, 176 Conn. 304, 309, 407 A.2d 971 (1978). Strada v. Connecticut Newspapers, Inc., 193 Conn. 313, 317, 477 A.2d 1005 (1984)...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. v. Carriage Lane Associates, 219 Conn. 772, 780-81, 595 A.2d 334 (1991).

In light of the similarity of issues raised in the two motions for summary judgment, we consider the trial court's disposition of the motions together. The plaintiff, in support of his motion for summary judgment and in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed memoranda, copies of the essay examination questions and his answers, and a personal affidavit. The substance of these documents can be distilled into two particular claims: (1) that his essay answers were scored by impermissibly subjective grading standards that resulted in gross grading errors; and (2) that because he received a score that was close to a passing score, there is no substantial difference between his failing score and a passing score, and thus the defendants arbitrarily and capriciously concluded that he was not...

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48 practice notes
  • In re Jonathan M., (SC 16330)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 16, 2001
    ...interests at stake, the government's interest, and the risk that the procedures used will lead to erroneous decisions"); Scinto v. Stamm, 224 Conn. 524, 535, 620 A.2d 99, cert. denied, 510 U.S. 861, 114 S. Ct. 176, 126 L. Ed. 2d 136 (1993) (same). Although the petitioner provides no analysi......
  • Hunt v. Prior, No. 15210
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 26, 1996
    ...requirement would entail.' Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, [903,] 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976)." Scinto v. Stamm, 224 Conn. 524, 535, 620 A.2d 99, cert. denied, 510 U.S. 861, 114 S.Ct. 176, 126 L.Ed.2d 136 (1993). In this case, the interest of the plaintiff affected by the sus......
  • State v. Santiago, No. 14518
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 9, 1993
    ...women, in civilized society, are entitled 'to be let alone' by their governments. Olmstead v. United States, [277 U.S. 438, 478, 48 S.Ct. [224 Conn. 524] 564, 572, 72 L.Ed. 944 (1928) ] (Brandeis, J., dissenting).... Page 1146 * The Court's opinion bespeaks and will help to promote an impov......
  • New England Sav. Bank v. Lopez, No. 14558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 24, 1993
    ...Sassone v. Lepore, 226 Conn. 773, 781, 629 A.2d 357 (1993); Matza v. Matza, 226 Conn. 166, 174, 627 A.2d 414 (1993); Scinto v. Stamm, 224 Conn. 524, 535, 620 A.2d 99 I suggest that, given the protected property interest at stake and the minimal additional burden of a hearing to calculate th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • In re Jonathan M., (SC 16330)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 16, 2001
    ...interests at stake, the government's interest, and the risk that the procedures used will lead to erroneous decisions"); Scinto v. Stamm, 224 Conn. 524, 535, 620 A.2d 99, cert. denied, 510 U.S. 861, 114 S. Ct. 176, 126 L. Ed. 2d 136 (1993) (same). Although the petitioner provides no analysi......
  • Hunt v. Prior, No. 15210
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 26, 1996
    ...requirement would entail.' Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, [903,] 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976)." Scinto v. Stamm, 224 Conn. 524, 535, 620 A.2d 99, cert. denied, 510 U.S. 861, 114 S.Ct. 176, 126 L.Ed.2d 136 (1993). In this case, the interest of the plaintiff affected by the sus......
  • State v. Santiago, No. 14518
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 9, 1993
    ...women, in civilized society, are entitled 'to be let alone' by their governments. Olmstead v. United States, [277 U.S. 438, 478, 48 S.Ct. [224 Conn. 524] 564, 572, 72 L.Ed. 944 (1928) ] (Brandeis, J., dissenting).... Page 1146 * The Court's opinion bespeaks and will help to promote an impov......
  • New England Sav. Bank v. Lopez, No. 14558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 24, 1993
    ...Sassone v. Lepore, 226 Conn. 773, 781, 629 A.2d 357 (1993); Matza v. Matza, 226 Conn. 166, 174, 627 A.2d 414 (1993); Scinto v. Stamm, 224 Conn. 524, 535, 620 A.2d 99 I suggest that, given the protected property interest at stake and the minimal additional burden of a hearing to calculate th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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