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Jenkins v. Jenkins

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 18, 2018

CHERYL A. JENKINS
v.
MICHAEL A. JENKINS

          Argued October 9, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action for the dissolution of a marriage, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Stamford, where the court, Colin, J., approved the agreement of the parties to enter into binding arbitration as to certain disputed matters; thereafter, the arbitrator issued an award and entered certain orders; subsequently, the defendant filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award, and the plaintiff filed motions to vacate the award; thereafter, the matter was tried to the court, Colin, J.; judgment granting the defendant's motion to confirm, denying the plaintiff's motions to vacate, and dissolving the parties' marriage and granting certain other relief, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Pamela M. Magnano, with whom, on the brief, was Cheryl A. Jenkins, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          George J. Markley, for the appellee (defendant).

          Keller, Bright and Pellegrino, Js.

          OPINION

          PELLEGRINO, J.

         The plaintiff, Cheryl A. Jenkins, appeals from the trial court's judgment denying her motion to vacate an arbitration award in a dissolution of marriage matter which, in addition to dissolving the marriage, included orders of alimony and a division of the parties' assets and other financial orders.[1] On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court erred when it refused to vacate the arbitrator's award because the arbitrator (1) precluded the testimony of an expert witness in violation of General Statutes § 52-418 (a) (3), and (2) treated one party more favorably than the other in violation of General Statutes § 52-418 (a) (2). We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the resolution of this appeal. The plaintiff and the defendant, Michael A. Jenkins, were married on August 31, 2008. In December, 2013, the plaintiff commenced the present dissolution action.

         In November, 2015, the parties entered into an arbitration agreement (agreement) for the resolution of several issues relating to the dissolution of their marriage. Arbitration proceedings took place before Elaine Gordon (arbitrator) on December 1, 2, and 21, 2015. The parties attended the proceedings with counsel and agreed that they would not have the proceedings recorded.[2]

         On February 3, 2016, the arbitrator issued an award and rationale for the award. The plaintiff subsequently filed motions in the Superior Court to vacate the award.[3]After holding a full evidentiary hearing on the plaintiff's two operative motions on March 28, 2016, the trial court, Colin, J., denied the plaintiff's motions to vacate the arbitration award. This appeal followed. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

         The plaintiff's claims arise under ‘‘General Statutes § 52-418 (a), which sets forth the standard of review governing an application to vacate, correct or modify an arbitration award, [and] provides in relevant part: Upon the application of any party to an arbitration, the superior court for the judicial district in which one of the parties resides . . . shall make an order vacating the award if it finds [that] . . . (2) . . . there has been evident partiality or corruption on the part of any arbitrator; [or] (3) if the arbitrators have been guilty of misconduct 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 . . . .'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Dept. of Transportation v. White Oak Corp., 319 Conn. 582, 598 n.3, 125 A.3d 988 (2015).

         We begin by setting forth the relevant standard for reviewing a trial court's judgment affirming an arbitration award. ‘‘This court has for many years wholeheartedly endorsed arbitration as an effective alternative method of settling disputes intended to avoid the formalities, delay, expense and vexation of ordinary litigation. . . . When arbitration is created by contract, we recognize that its autonomy can only be preserved by minimal judicial intervention. . . . Since the parties consent to arbitration, and have full control over the issues to be arbitrated, a court will make every reasonable presumption in favor of the arbitration award and the arbitrator's acts and proceedings. . . . The party challenging the award bears the burden of producing evidence sufficient to invalidate or avoid it . . . .'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Bridgeport v. Kasper Group, Inc., 278 Conn. 466, 473-74, 899 A.2d 523 (2006).

         Although a trial court's review of an arbitrator's decision is limited, our review of a trial court's decision to dismiss a motion to vacate an arbitration award under § 52-418 (a) (3) involves a question of law and, thus, is plenary. See id., 476. We review a trial court's decision to dismiss a motion to vacate an arbitration pursuant to § 52-418 (a) (2), which involves factual findings by the trial court, under the clearly erroneous standard. See Haynes Construction Co. v. Cascella & Son Construction, Inc., 36 Conn.App. 29, 32-33, 647 A.2d 1015, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 916, 648 A.2d 152 (1994) (applying clearly erroneous standard when reviewing trial court's decision vacating arbitration decision on basis of arbitrator's evident partiality). ‘‘Determining whether a trial court's decision is clearly erroneous involves a two part function: where the legal conclusions of the court are challenged we must determine whether they are legally and logically correct and whether they find support in the facts set out in the memorandum of decision; where the factual basis of the ...


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