Statutorily Confidential Matters in General:
Except as otherwise ordered by the court, a person who is not a party is not entitled to observe a hearing, status conference or hearing management conference or view or obtain copies from the record in a matter that is confidential under statute. If part but not all of the hearing, conference or record is confidential, a person who is not a party is not entitled to observe the confidential part of the hearing or conference or have access to the confidential part of the record.
A party or attorney for a party is entitled to participate in the hearing and to view and obtain copies from the record, including an audio recording or transcript. The court may prohibit a party or attorney from disclosing a confidential record to any other person. This does not apply, however, to the name and address of a party, which may be redacted in order to protect the safety of a party. The court may permit a person who is not a party to attend a hearing on a confidential matter if permitted by law or if all parties consent.
Redaction of name or address of party in a statutorily confidential matter:
A party seeking redaction of name or address of a party in a statutorily confidential matter shall file an affidavit of facts in support of the request before filing a document containing the name or address. On motion of a party or on the court’s own motion, the court may vacate a redaction order if the grounds for redaction no longer exist, or the order to redact the information was improvidently issued. The court may act on the motion without notice and hearing.
Confidentiality of judge’s notes:
Except as otherwise required by law or directed by the court, notes taken by the judge in connection with a matter are confidential and may not be viewed by any person other than a clerk of the court.
Motion to close hearing or seal record in non-confidential matter:
A party seeking to close a hearing to the public shall file a motion at least three business days before the hearing on the matter. A party seeking to seal all or a part of a record shall file a motion before filing a document that is the subject of the motion. The motion to seal may request use of a pseudonym in lieu of the name of a party or redaction of other information. A motion to close a hearing or seal a record shall set forth the grounds for the proposed action. The court may initiate a proceeding to close a hearing or seal a record on its own motion.
Hearing on motion to close hearing or seal record in non-confidential matter:
The court shall give notice of the hearing on a motion to close a hearing to the public or seal a record to each party and attorney of record. The court shall post notice of the time, date and place of the hearing at a location in or adjacent to the court that is accessible to the public. The court may, in addition, give notice by another method if necessary to notify the public of the hearing. Any person who the court determines to have an interest in the proceeding may present evidence and argument concerning the public and private interests at issue.
Order to close hearing or seal record in non-confidential matter:
After conducting a hearing on motion to close hearing or seal record in a non-confidential matter, the court may order that all or a part of a hearing be closed to the public or all or a part of a record be sealed if the court finds that closure or sealing is necessary to preserve an interest that overrides the public interest in open court proceedings and access to the record, there are no reasonable alternatives to closure or sealing, including sequestration of witnesses or redaction or use of pseudonyms, and the order is no broader than necessary to protect the overriding interest.
An agreement by the parties to close a hearing or seal a record is not a sufficient basis to order closure or sealing. If the court issues an order to close a hearing or seal a record, the court shall specify the interest being protected that overrides the public interest in open court proceedings and access to the record, the alternatives to closure or sealing that the court considered and the reasons why the alternatives were unavailable or inadequate, the basis for the determination that the order is no broader than necessary to protect the interest that overrides the public interest, and the scope and duration of the order.
Public access to motion, hearing and order to close hearing or seal record in non-confidential matter:
Members of the public may view and obtain copies of a motion to close a hearing to the public or seal a record and the order granting or denying the motion. Members of the public may observe the hearing on the motion. If a motion to close a hearing or seal a record is granted, the court may, in extraordinary circumstances, seal part of the motion and part of the order granting the motion.
Vacating order to close hearing or seal record:
On motion of a party or on the court’s own motion, after notice and hearing, the court may vacate an order to close a hearing to the public or seal a record if the grounds for closing the hearing or sealing the record no longer exist, the order was improvidently issued, or the interest protected by the order no longer outweighs the public interest in open court proceedings and access to the record.
Power to maintain order during hearings:
If a person is disruptive during a hearing, the court may take reasonable steps to maintain order and ensure a fair and expeditious hearing for the parties, including the imposition of limitations on access to the hearing. (Connecticut Probate Court Rules of Procedure).
Public Access to Probate Court Hearings and Records in Connecticut
Unless otherwise provided by law or directed by the probate court, members of the public may observe hearings, status conferences and hearing management conferences and may view and obtain copies from court records.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph C. Maya, Esq.
Joseph C. Maya is the Managing Partner at Maya Murphy, P.C., and handles cases involving these legal issues in New York and Connecticut.
Copyright Maya Murphy, P.C.
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.