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Rosenthal Law Firm, LLC. v. Cohen

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 10, 2016

ROSENTHAL LAW FIRM, LLC
v.
JAMES COHEN

Argued February 4, 2016

Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Scholl, J.

James Cohen, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

Edward Rosenthal, for the appellee (plaintiff).

DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Mullins, Js.

OPINION

MULLINS, J.

The self-represented defendant, James Cohen, appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting the application to confirm an arbitration award in favor of the plaintiff, Rosenthal Law Firm, LLC. On appeal, the defendant argues that the court improperly concluded that his application to vacate the arbitration award[1] was untimely and that it should have denied the defendant’s application to confirm the arbitration award. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following procedural history informs our resolution of the defendant’s appeal. On December 1, 2011, the parties entered into an agreement for legal services whereby they agreed to submit any fee disputes to the Connecticut Bar Association for binding arbitration.[2]On March 3, 2014, the plaintiff petitioned the legal fee resolution board of the Connecticut Bar Association (board) to resolve a fee dispute that had arisen between the parties. After a hearing, a panel of three arbitrators found in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant received notice of the board’s award on December 24, 2014.

On January 26, 2015, the plaintiff filed an application to confirm the arbitration award in the Superior Court for the judicial district of Hartford. On February 2, 2015, the defendant filed an application to vacate the arbitration award.[3] On March 17, 2015, the court held a hearing on the application to confirm and the application to vacate. The plaintiff argued, among other things, that the court could not consider the defendant’s application to vacate because it was untimely. The defendant countered that although his initial attempt to file the application to vacate was unsuccessful, the application nevertheless was timely filed at the time of the initial attempt. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court rendered an oral decision granting the plaintiff’s application to confirm the arbitration award.[4] This appeal followed.

On appeal, the defendant claims that the court incorrectly concluded that his application to vacate was untimely and should have denied the plaintiff’s application to confirm for one or more of the following reasons: the defendant was deprived of due process in the commencement of and during arbitration; the arbitration panel demonstrated bias by failing to consider his testimony and evidence; the panel’s findings were erroneous; and the award was contrary to public policy. The plaintiff argues, inter alia, that because the defendant did not file the application to vacate within thirty days of receiving notice of the arbitration award, as required by General Statutes § 52-420 (b), the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the application to vacate and was obligated to confirm the award. We agree with the plaintiff that because the defendant did not make a timely application to vacate the arbitration award, the court, pursuant to General Statutes § 52-417, properly granted the application to confirm the award.

Our resolution of the defendant’s appeal requires us to determine whether the court properly confirmed the arbitration award under the circumstances of this case. ‘‘[A] party may apply for the confirmation of an arbitration award within one year after it has been rendered. Section 52-417 provides that upon such an application, [t]he court or judge shall grant such an order confirming the award unless the award is vacated, modified or corrected as prescribed in [General Statutes §§] 52-418 and 52-419. . . .

‘‘[Section] 52-418 (a) provides that a court shall grant a motion to vacate if it finds one of the following enumerated defects: (1) If the award has been procured by corruption, fraud or undue means; (2) if there has been evident partiality or corruption on the part of any arbitrator; (3) if the arbitrators have been guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing upon sufficient cause shown or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy or of any other action by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced; or (4) if the arbitrators have exceeded their powers or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made. General Statutes § 52-420 (b) creates a time limitation on bringing a motion to vacate: No motion to vacate, modify or correct an award may be made after thirty days from the notice of the award to the party to the arbitration who makes the motion.

‘‘The trial court lacks any discretion in confirming the arbitration award unless the award suffers from any of the defects described in . . . §§ 52-418 and 52-419. . . . Furthermore, if a motion to vacate, modify or correct is not made within the thirty day time limit specified in . . . § 52-420, the award may not thereafter be attacked on any of the grounds specified in §§ 52-418 and 52-419.’’ (Emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) Directory Assistants, Inc. v. Big Country Vein, L.P., 134 Conn.App. 415, 420, 39 A.3d 777 (2012).

‘‘[Section] 52-420 (b) does not limit the thirty day filing period to applications arising out of the grounds for vacatur enumerated in § 52-418, but also applies to common-law grounds, such as a claimed violation of public policy.’’ Asselin & Connolly, Attorneys, LLC v.Heath, 108 Conn.App. 360, 366, 947 A.2d 1051 (2008). ‘‘If the motion [to vacate] is not filed within the thirty day time limit, the trial court does ...


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