Villeneuve v. State
There may be no judicial controversy present, when an individual requests a declaratory judgment that he possesses the constitutional right under the First Amendment to attempt to commit suicide on public property, as a form of political commentary and protest. Allegedly, grievance proceedings were brought against the plaintiff, Mark Villeneuve, who was admitted to practice law in the State of Connecticut. Villeneuve alleged that he was wrongly deprived of his constitutional rights and right to access the courts. The plaintiff sued the president, the governor, the attorney general, disciplinary counsel and six judges. The plaintiff requested a declaratory judgment from the District Court that he possesses the First Amendment right to commit suicide on public property, as a form of political commentary and protest. The court found that there was no evidence of a judicial controversy or dispute and that the plaintiff merely sought an advisory opinion. Federal courts lack the power to provide advisory opinions about what the law ought to be or affecting a dispute that has not yet arisen, pursuant to Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Hartford, Conn. v. Haworth, a 1937 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The District Court lacks the power to grant the relief the plaintiff requests. In Washington v. Glucksberg, a 1997 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the court held that the "right to commit suicide which itself includes a right to assistance in doing so" is not a constitutionally protected right. In Commissioner of Correction v. Coleman, a 2012 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote that "Connecticut has a policy of preserving life." The legislature has made assisting in suicide a criminal offense, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §53a-54a. "[G]iven the State and Federal governments' incontrovertible interest in the preservation of life in addition to Connecticut's criminalization of assisting in suicide," wrote the District Court, "this Court has no authority to issue an injunction, which would enjoin the State and the Federal Government from preventing the Plaintiff from committing suicide on public property as an act of protest." The court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint.