MARTIN J. PRAISNER, JR.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
December 6, 2018
for indemnification for economic losses allegedly incurred by
the plaintiff as a result of a federal criminal action filed
against him in his capacity as a police officer, and for
other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of Hartford, where the court, Hon. Richard M.
Rittenband, judge trial referee, denied the
defendant's motion to dismiss; thereafter, the court,
Scholl, J., denied the defendant's
motion for summary judgment and granted the plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment as to liability; subsequently,
after a hearing in damages, the court, Pittman,
J., rendered judgment for the plaintiff, from which
the defendant appealed to this court; thereafter, the court,
Pittman, J., rendered a supplemental
judgment awarding the plaintiff attorney's fees and
costs, and the defendant filed an amended appeal.
Reversed; judgment directed.
V. Melendez, assistant attorney general, with whom,
on the brief, was George Jepsen, former attorney general, for
the appellant (defendant).
B. Spector, with whom was David C. Yale, for the appellee
DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Elgo, Js.
defendant, the state of Connecticut, appeals from the
judgment of the trial court denying its motion for summary
judgment in this indemnification action brought by the
plaintiff, Martin J. Praisner, Jr., pursuant to General
Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 53-39a.On appeal, the
state contends that the court improperly concluded that the
action was not barred by the doctrine of sovereign
immunity. We agree and, accordingly, reverse the
judgment of the trial court.
facts are not in dispute. At all relevant times, the state
maintained a special police force for Eastern Connecticut
State University (university). The plaintiff was a member of
that special police force and an employee of the state. While
on duty on September 1, 2008, the plaintiff was involved in
an incident in which he allegedly "deployed pepper spray
against an intoxicated and violent prisoner in a converted
Sheetrock coat closet, which was used as a holding cell, and
failed to promptly decontaminate the prisoner." Weeks
later, the plaintiff was placed on paid administrative leave
by the university. He thereafter applied for a position with
the state's Department of Correction (department) and was
hired as a correction officer on August 15, 2009.
December 1, 2009, the plaintiff was indicted by the federal
government and charged with the crimes of conspiracy to
violate an individual's civil rights in violation of
18U.S.C.§ 241 and deprivation of an individual's
civil rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Following
his arrest, the plaintiff's employment with the
department was terminated. After two federal trials that both
resulted in hung juries, the United States District Court for
the District of Connecticut on August 10, 2011, granted the
government's motion to dismiss the indictment against the
plaintiff subsequently demanded reimbursement from the state
for economic losses that he allegedly incurred as a result of
his federal prosecution. When the state declined to do so,
the plaintiff commenced the present action. His one count
complaint sought indemnification pursuant to § 53-39a
"for economic losses sustained . . . as a result of the
aforesaid arrest and prosecution, including the payment of
any legal fees incurred in pursuing these
response, the state moved to dismiss the action for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. In the memorandum of law that
accompanied that motion, the state acknowledged that §
53-39a "waives the [s]tate's immunity to liability
and suit," but only with respect to "those
individuals who fall within the designated
classifications" set forth in that statute. The state
then argued that (1) members of the university's special
police force do not fall within the class of individuals who
expressly are authorized to bring an action against the state
pursuant to § 53-39a and (2) the complaint contained no
allegation that the plaintiff had obtained permission from
the Claims Commissioner to institute the action for monetary
relief. See General Statutes § 4-160. The plaintiff
filed an objection to the motion to dismiss, to which the
state filed a reply brief.
court, Hon. Richard M. Rittenband, judge trial
referee, heard argument from the parties on March 17, 2014.
In an order issued later that day, the court concluded that a
member of the university's special police force
"falls under the category of a member of a local police
department" as that term is used in § 53-39a. The
court therefore denied the motion to dismiss. The state filed
a motion to reargue that ruling, which the court denied.
state then answered the complaint, and the plaintiff filed a
certificate of closed pleadings, in which he requested a
court trial. On January 13, 2017, the state filed a motion
for summary judgment, renewing its claim that the court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction due to sovereign immunity.
Relying on the law of the case doctrine,  the court,
Scholl, J., denied that motion. The court at that
time also granted the plaintiff's cross motion for
summary judgment as to liability only. A hearing in damages
followed, at the conclusion of which the court, Pittman,
J., rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff "in
the amount of $658, 849 in lost earnings and benefits . . .