TELE TECH v. DEPT. OF PUBLIC UTILITY, No. 17105.

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtZARELLA, J.
Citation270 Conn. 778,855 A.2d 174
Decision Date31 August 2004
Docket NumberNo. 17105.
PartiesTELE TECH OF CONNECTICUT CORPORATION v. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITY CONTROL et al.

855 A.2d 174
270 Conn. 778

TELE TECH OF CONNECTICUT CORPORATION
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITY CONTROL et al

No. 17105.

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued February 18, 2004.

Officially released August 31, 2004.


855 A.2d 176
Robert L. Marconi, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant (named defendant)

Thomas W. Bucci, Bridgeport, for the appellee (plaintiff).

William L. Valle, Jr., with whom, on the brief, was Mary J. Healey, for the appellee (Defendant Office of Consumer Counsel).

SULLIVAN, C. J., and NORCOTT, PALMER, VERTEFEUILLE and ZARELLA, Js.

Opinion

ZARELLA, J.

This appeal requires us to determine whether the named defendant,1 the department of public utility control (department), provided Tele Tech of Connecticut Corporation (Tele Tech), prior to the institution of license revocation proceedings, with proper notice and an opportunity to show compliance with all legal requirements for the retention of a license pursuant to General Statutes § 4-182(c).2 We conclude

855 A.2d 177
that it did not. Because Tele Tech has failed to demonstrate that its substantial rights were prejudiced, however, we reverse the judgment of the trial court

We first set forth the facts relevant to this case. In December, 1997, Tele Tech applied for, and was granted, a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the operation of pay telephone services in Connecticut3 pursuant to General Statutes § 16-247g (a).4 Subsequently, in response to numerous consumer complaints, the department initiated an investigation of Tele Tech's "managerial, financial, and technical ability ... to operate as a provider of customer owned coin operated telephone... service in Connecticut." In a decision issued on November 8, 2000, the department concluded that "Tele Tech [was] suitable to continue providing [customer owned coin operated telephone] service in Connecticut ... [but that Tele Tech was] liable for fines pursuant to [General Statutes] § 16-41(a)5 ... for its unresponsiveness

855 A.2d 178
to Department letters, its lack of financial responsibility to its customers, and its ineffective management." The department also stated in its decision that, "[a]t this time, the Department will not revoke [Tele Tech's] Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity" but admonished that "Tele Tech must realize that its failure to properly respond to the Department and its customers in the future will result in [the] revocation of its [certificate of public convenience and necessity]." In accordance with its November 8, 2000 decision, the department ordered Tele Tech to pay a $20,000 fine

Tele Tech requested a hearing before the department to determine the propriety of the department's assessment of the $20,000 fine pursuant to § 16-41. After a hearing on this matter, the department issued a decision on June 13, 2001, "reaffirm[ing] its November 8, 2000 [d]ecision that the fine [was] appropriate and ... in accordance with ... [§§ 16-247g] and ... 16-41." The department set a payment due date of June 29, 2001, but Tele Tech did not pay the fine.

Subsequently, upon learning that Tele Tech had failed to pay the fine, the department initiated another investigation of Tele Tech. In an August 17, 2001 letter to Tele Tech, the department advised Tele Tech that, pursuant to § 16-247g, it was initiating an investigation into whether it should revoke Tele Tech's certificate of public convenience and necessity. The department noted in this letter that it designated Tele Tech "as a party to this proceeding."6 Although the department

855 A.2d 179
informed Tele Tech of such matters as the statutory prohibition on ex parte communications in a contested case and Tele Tech's duties pertaining to the submission of briefs and written exceptions to draft decisions, it did not articulate the factual basis underlying the initiation of the new investigation.

In response to the department's August 17, 2001 letter, Tele Tech requested clarification of the basis for the department's investigation in a letter dated September 6, 2001. The department responded, in a letter dated September 17, 2001, that the latest investigation was initiated because "Tele Tech ha[d] failed to pay the $20,000 fine that was ordered in [June, 2001]," and because the department "also [had] received a Notice of Cancellation on July 27, 2001, from Utica Mutual Insurance Company [Utica Mutual] for Tele Tech's surety bond."7 According to the department, the notice of cancellation indicated that the surety bond that Utica Mutual had issued would have been cancelled on August 27, 2001, on the basis of Tele Tech's nonpayment of premiums. The department explained that, on the basis of the foregoing information, "Tele Tech's financial and managerial capability [was] called into question."

The department scheduled a hearing for December 18, 2001. Tele Tech, however, requested and received a continuance due to a scheduling conflict. Subsequently, on January 15, 2002, the hearing proceeded,8 and, thereafter, on March 12, 2002, the department issued a draft decision reflecting its initial determination to revoke Tele Tech's certificate of public convenience and necessity.9 Tele Tech took exception to the department's draft decision and submitted

855 A.2d 180
written exceptions in which it claimed, inter alia, that "[t]he [department's] decision result[ed] from a process that is constitutionally and statutorily flawed in that Tele Tech's due process rights were violated by the [department]." On May 1, 2002, the department issued its final decision, in which it expressly rejected Tele Tech's exceptions and approved the revocation of Tele Tech's certificate of public convenience and necessity.

Tele Tech appealed from the department's adverse decision to the Superior Court, which sustained the appeal and remanded the case to the department with direction to afford Tele Tech a compliance hearing within thirty days. The department appealed to the Appellate Court from the judgment of the trial court, and we transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199(c) and Practice Book § 65-1. We will set forth additional facts as needed.

Our standard of review of administrative agency rulings is well established. E.g., Levinson v. Connecticut Board of Chiropractic Examiners, 211 Conn. 508, 520, 560 A.2d 403 (1989). "Judicial review of an administrative decision is a creature of statute"; (internal quotation marks omitted) PARCC, Inc. v. Commission on Hospitals & Health Care, 235 Conn. 128, 138, 663 A.2d 992 (1995); and "[General Statutes § 4-183(j)] permits modification or reversal of an agency's decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are: (1)[i]n violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (2) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency; (3) made upon unlawful procedure; (4) affected by other error or law; (5) clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record; or (6) arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Levinson v. Board of Chiropractic Examiners, supra, at 520-21, 560 A.2d 403; accord General Statutes § 4-183(j). We have stated that "not all procedural irregularities require a reviewing court to set aside an administrative decision ...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Jutkowitz v. Dept. of Health Services, 220 Conn. 86, 97, 596 A.2d 374 (1991). The complaining party has the burden of demonstrating that its substantial rights were prejudiced by the error. See id.; Levinson v. Board of Chiropractic Examiners, supra, at 536, 560 A.2d 403.

In addition, although we have noted that "[a]n agency's factual and discretionary determinations are to be accorded considerable weight by the courts"; (internal quotation marks omitted) Secretary of the Office of Policy & Management v. Employees' Review Board, 267 Conn. 255, 262, 837 A.2d 770 (2004); we have maintained that "[c]ases that present pure questions of law ... invoke a broader standard of review than is ordinarily involved in deciding whether, in light of the evidence, the agency has acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, illegally or in abuse of its discretion." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id. Thus, "[w]e have determined ... that the traditional deference accorded to an agency's interpretation of a statutory term is unwarranted when the construction of a statute ... has not previously been subjected to judicial scrutiny [or to] ... a governmental agency's time-tested interpretation...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id.

I

We first address Tele Tech's claim that the department lacked jurisdiction to revoke Tele Tech's certificate of public

855 A.2d 181
convenience and necessity because the department allegedly had failed to comport with the provisions of § 4-182(c) in not giving Tele Tech notice and an opportunity to show compliance. Tele Tech contends that "[t]he [department's] failure to minimally comply with the requirements of ... § 4-182(c) deprived it of jurisdiction to revoke [Tele Tech's certificate of public convenience and necessity]." According to Tele Tech, "[t]he statutory requirements of § 4-182(c) are a necessary precondition to formal licensure revocation proceedings." Tele Tech thus implicitly equates a revocation that is not in compliance with § 4-182(c) with a revocation that has occurred without jurisdiction. We are not persuaded.

We agree with Tele Tech that administrative agencies possess limited jurisdiction. E.g., Southern New England Telephone Co. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 261 Conn. 1, 21, 803 A.2d 879 (2002). As we have stated, "[t]he principles of subject matter jurisdiction are well established. Jurisdiction of the subject-matter is the power [of the court] to hear and determine cases of...

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44 practice notes
  • State v. Arthur H., No. 18100.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 26, 2008
    ...demands." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 806 n. 25, 855 A.2d 174 (2004); see also generally Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976) (setting forth three-pr......
  • Bender v. Bender, No. 18306.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 28, 2009
    ...is a clear distinction between authority (or power) and jurisdiction. Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 790, 855 A.2d 174 (2004) ("The power of the court to hear and determine, which is implicit in jurisdiction, is not to be confused with the ......
  • Pereira v. State Bd. of Educ., No. 18833.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 28, 2012
    ...Utility Control, 261 Conn. 1, 3 n. 2, 803 A.2d 879 (2002); see also Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 791–92, 855 A.2d 174 (2004) (“[T]he mere fact that the procedures employed by the department [of public utility control (department) ] ... do......
  • State v. Dejesus, No. 17710.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 19, 2008
    ...does not dictate the outcome of the present appeal. See, e.g., Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 810, 855 A.2d 174 (2004). To the extent that we indicated in Sawyer, however, that "the authority to change the rules of evidence lies with the ju......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • State v. Arthur H., No. 18100.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 26, 2008
    ...demands." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 806 n. 25, 855 A.2d 174 (2004); see also generally Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976) (setting forth three-pr......
  • Bender v. Bender, No. 18306.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 28, 2009
    ...is a clear distinction between authority (or power) and jurisdiction. Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 790, 855 A.2d 174 (2004) ("The power of the court to hear and determine, which is implicit in jurisdiction, is not to be confused with the ......
  • Pereira v. State Bd. of Educ., No. 18833.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • February 28, 2012
    ...Utility Control, 261 Conn. 1, 3 n. 2, 803 A.2d 879 (2002); see also Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 791–92, 855 A.2d 174 (2004) (“[T]he mere fact that the procedures employed by the department [of public utility control (department) ] ... do......
  • State v. Dejesus, No. 17710.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 19, 2008
    ...does not dictate the outcome of the present appeal. See, e.g., Tele Tech of Connecticut Corp. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 270 Conn. 778, 810, 855 A.2d 174 (2004). To the extent that we indicated in Sawyer, however, that "the authority to change the rules of evidence lies with the ju......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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