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Conn. SC decides what makes a person

By John O'Brien | Apr 23, 2008


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Playing Blue Fairy to the State of Connecticut's Pinocchio, the state Supreme Court has decided that a public entity will not be legally referred to as a real person.

With the power to make a state office a person for the purpose of collecting attorneys fees, the Court affirmed a trial court's decision to deny the State's application for $138,926.70.

"The trial court denied the application on the ground that a 'person' entitled to recover costs and fees under (state law) means natural persons and does not include public entities, such as the Department of Environmental Protection," Chief Justice Chase Rogers wrote.

"This appeal followed. The commissioner (Gina McCarthy) claims that the trial court improperly denied his application for attorneys fees, expenses and costs on the ground that a public entity is not a 'person' within the meaning of (state law). We disagree."

Connecticut Attorney Richard Blumenthal's office represented the DEP in the case against Goodspeed Airport, accused of violating the state's Environmental Protection Act of 1971. Goodspeed Airport cut down all the trees and vegetation in a 2.5-acre piece of land adjacent to the airport and owned by the East Haddam Land Trust and the Nature Conservatory.

Blumenthal argued the word "person," as it's used in a certain part of state law, means any individual firm, partnership, association, syndicate, company, trust corporation, limited liability company, municipality, agency or political or administrative subdivision of the state.

The defendants claimed that another section of similar state law does not expressly does not refer to public entities when it defines "person."

The Court agreed that the Legislature's wording of the two sections rendered its definition of "person" ambiguous, and the defendants' definition was the correct one.

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