State v. Nardini

Decision Date11 May 1982
Citation445 A.2d 304,187 Conn. 109
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Dante NARDINI.

Linda K. Lager, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Arnold Markle, State's Atty., and Mary M. Galvin, Asst. State's Atty., for appellant (state).

Jerrold H. Barnett, Public Defender, with whom were Richard Emanuel, Asst. Public Defender, and, on the brief, Bruce A. Sturman and Suzanne Zitser, Asst. Public Defenders, for appellee (defendant).


PARSKEY, Associate Justice.

This appeal by the state challenges the constitutionality of the Connecticut Sentence Review Act. General Statutes §§ 51-194 through 51-197. Having examined the grounds of this challenge and having found them wanting, we affirm the constitutionality of the act.

This case arises out of action by the sentence review division reducing the sentence originally imposed on the defendant. After a jury trial the defendant was found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson; General Statutes § 53a-48; and the substantive crime of arson in the first degree. General Statutes § 53a-111(a)(1) and (2). He was sentenced by the court, Schaller, J., on the conspiracy count to a term of eight to sixteen years and on the arson count to a consecutive term of ten to twenty years, for a total effective sentence of eighteen to thirty-six years. He filed a timely application to the sentence review division, A. Armentano, J. Shea and Dannehy, Js., which, after a hearing, left the terms of the originally imposed sentences intact but ordered that the sentences be served concurrently for a total effective sentence of ten to twenty years. Subsequently the court, Kinney, J., over the state's objection, resentenced the defendant in accordance with the decision of the sentence review division. The state, with permission of the presiding judge; General Statutes § 54-96; has appealed.

Before addressing the serious questions raised by the state we consider the defendant's challenge to the state's appeal. The defendant confronts the state at the appellate door with the issues of justiciability, standing and appealability. We discuss these issues seriatim.




Because courts are established to resolve actual controversies, before a claimed controversy is entitled to a resolution on the merits it must be justiciable. Justiciability requires (1) that there be an actual controversy between or among the parties to the dispute: "Courts exist for determination of actual and existing controversies, and under the law of this state the courts may not be used as a vehicle to obtain judicial opinions on points of law." Harkins v. Driscoll, 165 Conn. 407, 409, 334 A.2d 901 (1973); Connecticut Foundry Co. v. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, 177 Conn. 17, 19, 411 A.2d 1 (1979); (2) that the interests of the parties be adverse; McAnerney v. McAnerney, 165 Conn. 277, 283, 334 A.2d 437 (1973); Lipson v. Bennett, 148 Conn. 385, 389, 171 A.2d 83 (1961); (3) that the matter in controversy be capable of being adjudicated by judicial power; Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 198, 82 S.Ct. 691, 699, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962); and (4) that the determination of the controversy will result in practical relief to the complainant. Connecticut Foundry Co. v. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, supra, 177 Conn. 20-21, 411 A.2d 1; Reynolds v. Vroom, 130 Conn. 512, 515, 36 A.2d 22 (1944). The present case satisfies all of the criteria for justiciability. The controversy involves a substantive question with respect to the new sentence imposed on the defendant, the position of the parties involved is adverse, the validity of the Sentence Review Act is an appropriate matter for judicial resolution and the practical effect of resolving the issue would be to let the new sentence stand or else to reinstate the initial sentence.


Standing involves a question of legal status. "It is a fundamental concept of judicial administration ... that no person is entitled to set the machinery of the courts in operation except to obtain redress for an injury he has suffered or to prevent an injury he may suffer, either in an individual or a representative capacity." Bassett v. Desmond, 140 Conn. 426, 430, 101 A.2d 294 (1953); Alarm Applications Co. v. Simsbury Volunteer Fire Co., 179 Conn. 541, 549, 427 A.2d 822 (1980). "Standing" concerns " 'the question whether the interest sought to be protected by the complainant is arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question.' [ Data Processing Service Organizations v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153, 90 S.Ct. 827, 830, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970) ]." Ducharme v. Putnam, 161 Conn. 135, 139, 285 A.2d 318 (1971); Maloney v. Pac, --- Conn. ---, --- 439 A.2d 349 (1981). Since the state's attorney has no cognizable personal interest in the present controversy but is acting in a representative capacity the determination of standing requires an inquiry into the status and function of the office of state's attorney.

In State v. Keena, 64 Conn. 212, 29 A. 470 (1894), we reviewed the powers and duties of the office of state's attorney. We said (pp. 214-15, 29 A. 470): "The powers and duties of a State's Attorney have never been defined by statute law; they are (except in certain particulars specifically enumerated in the statutes) the necessary incidents of the office, by force of the common law of this State. The language used in relation to the office has not materially changed since it was first formally established. In 1704 the 'Atturney for the Queen,' is required to 'prosecute and implead in the lawe all criminall offenders, and to doe all things necessary or convenient as an atturney to suppress vice and imorallitie.' 4 Colonial Records, 468. In 1730 this Act was passed: 'In each county there shall be one King's Attourney, who shall plead and manage, in the county where such attourney is appointed, in all matters proper, in behalf of our sovereign lord the King.' 7 Colonial Records, 280.

"In 1764, apparently to remove any doubt that the representative of the crown also represented the sovereignty of the Colony, the King's attorneys in the several counties were empowered 'to appear in behalf of the Governor and Company of this Colony in all cases concerning them or brought for or against them in any of the said counties.' 12 Colonial Records, 258. In 1784 it was enacted that:--'In each county in this State, there shall be one State Attorney, who shall prosecute, manage and plead in the County where such Attorney is appointed, in all Matters proper for, and in behalf of the State.' Statutes 1786, p. 11. In the Revision of 1821 and of 1838 the same language was used. In 1849 the language was condensed as follows:--'The County Court, in each county, shall appoint one attorney for the State, who shall act as attorney in behalf of the State in the county where appointed.' Revision 1849, p. 208. In 1888 the statute reads thus:--'A State's Attorney in each county, who shall act therein as attorney in behalf of the State.' General Statutes, § 763.

"It has been uniformly held since 1730 that the office then established carried with it the duty to conduct all criminal prosecutions in the Superior Courts, and the power to institute and carry on in every court having criminal jurisdiction (unless restrained by some statute) any criminal prosecution within the jurisdiction of the court, and also the power and duty to exercise the common law powers appertaining to the office of Attorney General, so far as applicable to our system of jurisprudence."

Since then the powers and duties of the office of state's attorney have remained essentially unchanged. State v. Bell, 21 Conn.Sup. 246, 249, 154 A.2d 142 (1959). Indeed, in the criminal field, the legislature in General Statutes § 3-125 precluded the attorney general from having any supervision in "those legal matters over which prosecuting officers have direction." In sum, because the matter before us involves the validity of a sentence imposed as a result of a criminal prosecution the authority of the state's attorney to act on behalf of the state is beyond question. "As a representative of the people of the state, he is under a duty not solely to obtain convictions but, more importantly, (1) to determine that there is reasonable ground to proceed with a criminal charge; State v. Hayes, 127 Conn. 543, 581, 18 A.2d 895 (1941); (2) to see that impartial justice is done the guilty as well as the innocent; and (3) to ensure that all evidence tending to aid in the ascertaining of the truth be laid before the court, whether it be consistent with the contention of the prosecution that the accused is guilty." State v. Moynahan, 164 Conn. 560, 568, 325 A.2d 199, cert. denied, 414 U.S. 976, 94 S.Ct. 291, 38 L.Ed.2d 219 (1973). In discharging the duty imposed upon him by law, if in his judgment the original sentence imposed on the defendant was valid and the resentence was invalid, it is entirely appropriate for him on behalf of the people of the state to challenge the constitutionality of the statute authorizing the resentence. The fact that under other circumstances he might be required to defend the action of the sentence review division does not alter his role in or change the nature of the present controversy. See United States v. I.C.C., 337 U.S. 426, 431, 69 S.Ct. 1410, 1413, 93 L.Ed. 1451 (1949).


The defendant raises both a jurisdictional and a non-jurisdictional challenge to our review of the state's appeal. The jurisdictional aspect involves a claim that since the defendant has begun serving his sentence a reversal that resulted in the imposition of the original sentence would constitute double jeopardy. We do not agree. A criminal sentence once pronounced is not accorded the same...

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