Bochicchio v. Quinn
The plaintiff failed to exhaust the remedies provided by the statutory framework associated with the claims commissioner and, therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of the plaintiffs action for a bill of discovery. The estate of Donna Bochicchio, through administrator Karl Seitz, commenced this action for a bill of discovery against the Honorable Barbara Quinn and the Honorable Julia Aurigemma, judges of the Superior Court alleging, essentially, the following facts. During marital dissolution proceedings before Judge Quinn in the judicial district of Middlesex at Middletown where Judge Aurigemma served as administrative judge, Michael Bochicchio attempted to enter the courthouse with various prohibited items including a handgun. In the courthouse parking lot, he fired shots killing Donna Bochicchio and severely wounding her attorney, Julie Porzio, before fatally shooting himself. The plaintiff filed a claim with the claims commissioner seeking permission to sue the state alleging that failures by judicial branch employees constituted a substantial factor in the death of Donna Bochicchio. The claims commissioner denied the plaintiffs request to depose the defendant judges but authorized written interrogatories. In its bill of discovery, the plaintiff claimed that such interrogatories were an inadequate remedy and the defendants depositions were material and necessary to a proper determination of its claims. The trial court granted the defendants motion to dismiss the complaint as barred by the doctrine of sovereignty. The plaintiff appealed claiming that the doctrine of sovereignty was inapplicable as the only relief sought is testimony and, therefore, the state is not affected. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment on the alternative ground that the plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before the commissioner and the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. The proceedings before the commissioner have not run their course. A premature ruling from a court could usurp the legislative function of the commissioner and lead to an unnecessary conflict between the two branches of government. Should the plaintiff remain dissatisfied with the commissioners ultimate decision, the statutory scheme provides for legislative review. This opportunity for a direct appeal to the legislature raised a separation of powers concern, an encroachment by the courts on the prerogative of a coequal branch of government.