United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' JOINT MOTION TO CERTIFY
QUESTIONS OF LAW TO THE CONNECTICUT SUPREME COURT
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
a criminal case in which a federal grand jury has charged
five defendants, who were all officers or directors of the
Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC),
with conspiring to and misappropriating funds for personal
purposes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and
§ 666(a)(1)(A). The case is set for jury selection and
trial several weeks from now in February 2020.
the Court's ruling denying in large part defendants'
motions to dismiss the indictment, see generally United
States v. Rankin, -- F.Supp.3d --, 2019 WL 6044741 (D.
Conn. 2019), defendants have moved for an order pursuant to
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-199b(d) to certify three questions
of state law to the Connecticut Supreme Court:
(1) Is Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-233e(b)(29), which provides
that CMEEC “shall have the . . .power . . . generally
to exercise in connection with its property and affairs, and
in connection with property within its control, any and all
powers that might be exercised by . . . a private corporation
in connection with similar property and affairs[, ]”
restricted by the reference in section 7-233e(b) describing
CMEEC's purpose as “providing facilities for the
generation and transmission of electric power”?
(2) Was the 2017 addition of subsection (j) to Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 7-233c a clarifying statutory amendment that is
a relevant consideration under the rules of statutory
construction in Connecticut law to interpreting the
pre-amendment statutory authorization to conduct a corporate
(3) Pursuant to the enabling legislation authorizing the
formation of municipal electric energy cooperatives, see
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-233a, et seq., are the members of a
municipal electric energy cooperative the municipal electric
utilities or the municipalities?
Doc. #172 at 1-2. The Government objects to defendants'
motion. Doc. #180.
Connecticut law, the Connecticut Supreme Court may accept a
certified question of state law from a federal court
“if the answer may be determinative of an issue in
pending litigation in the certifying court and if there is no
controlling appellate decision, constitutional provision or
statute of this state.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §
51-199b(d). For its part, a district court has discretion
whether to certify a question of state law to the Connecticut
Supreme Court. See Lopez v. Smiley, 375 F.Supp.2d
19, 26 (D. Conn. 2005). “When deciding whether to
certify a question to the Connecticut Supreme Court, a court
should consider, among other factors, ‘(1) the absence
of authoritative state court decisions; (2) the importance of
the issue to the state; and (3) the capacity of certification
to resolve the litigation.'” Karas v. Liberty
Ins. Corp., 2018 WL 2002480 (D. Conn. 2018) (quoting
O'Mara v. Town of Wappinger, 485 F.3d 693, 698
(2d Cir. 2007)); see also L. Cohen & Co. v. Dun &
Bradstreet, Inc., 629 F.Supp. 1419, 1422-25 (D. Conn.
1986) (Cabranes, J.) (discussing multiple additional
considered all relevant factors, and I will deny the motion
to certify for substantially the reasons stated by the
Government in its objection. In light of the indictment's
allegations that the use of funds was for personal rather
than corporate purposes, I am not convinced that the validity
of the indictment turns on the outcome of defendants'
state law arguments about the scope of CMEEC's authority
to engage in corporate retreats. See Rankin, 2019 WL
6044741, at *7-*9 (D. Conn. 2019). Nor am I convinced that
the validity of the indictment turns on defendants'
argument about whether as a matter of state law the
“members” of CMEEC are municipal utilities rather
than municipalities themselves.
it is true that a state law issue need not necessarily be
outcome-determinative in order to warrant certification, the
lack of outcome-determinativeness is nonetheless a factor
that strongly counsels against an indefinite delay of federal
criminal trial proceedings for state law certification
proceedings. See O'Mara, 485 F.3d at 698 (noting
among factors to consider “the capacity of
certification to resolve the litigation”). Defendants
misplace their reliance on United States v. Lewis,
491 F.Supp.2d 537 (D. Md. 2007), because that case involved a
federal criminal law that itself expressly incorporated state
law and because the resolution of the state law issue would
be outcome-determinative for multiple pending prosecutions.
Id. at 538.
remains to be seen in light of the trial evidence and jury
instructions to what extent the resolution of any of
defendants' proposed state law questions may have bearing
on any verdict in this case. To the extent that defendants
believe that the Court's rulings to date reflect a
misunderstanding of state law that could prejudice them at
trial, they are welcome to renew their state law arguments by
way of evidentiary motions in limine or proposed
jury instructions at trial.
motion to certify questions to the Connecticut ...