Ponderous Practice Book Over-Complicates Filing a CT Lawsuit

What on earth does Section 8-1 “mesne” (mean)?

Confused associate.jpgI’ve written about traps for the unwary in Connecticut practice before, but nothing exemplifies the incomprehensibility of the Connecticut Practice Book quite like Section 8-1.  It is supposed to explain how you start a civil lawsuit in Connecticut.  I’ll let you decide.  It states: 

Mesne process in civil actions shall be a writ of summons or attachment, describing the parties, the court to which it is returnable and the time and place of appearance, and shall be accompanied by the plaintiff’s complaint.  Such writ may run into any judicial district or geographical area and shall blah blah blah I’ve read this 6 times and I still know nothing about how to start a lawsuit in Connecticut.

Makes perfect sense.  Just hang up your shingle, ye lawyers, and have at it!

The rest of Chapter 8 says nothing about:

  • selecting a return date (must be a Tuesday no more than 2 months after the writ of summons is signed, C.G.S. 52-48);
  • the deadline for service (at least 12 days before the return date, C.G.S. 52-46);
  • the deadline to return service to the court (at least 6 days before the return date, C.G.S. 52-46a);
  • the judicial districts in which the complaint may be filed (depends on where parties reside or operate their businesses);
  • who may serve process (a state marshal or indifferent person, C.G.S. 52-50);
  • the restrictions on what state marshal may serve process in your case (marshal’s service powers are restricted to a specific county, but a marshal may serve outside her county in some circumstances)

And much, much more!

I don’t think I even looked at the Official Practice Book for the first 5 years of my practice.  I relied 100% on the annotated Practice Book:  the editors explain the rules in English and the cases they cite cover just about every scenario you are likely to face.  In fact, I considered it a sign that I had moved from apprentice to journeyman lawyer when I was able to use the Official Practice Book most of the time.

Every so often, I ponder whether Connecticut should overhaul its dual-source civil procedure regime and create a single, comprehensive civil procedure statute like many states have.  I always end up firmly on the side of not changing anything, even if the official written sources of procedure are horribly lacking in many ways. 

Why?  Many reasons.  Maze.jpg

First and foremost - I don’t want to have to relearn Connecticut Practice.  For a less selfish reason, the annotated Practice Book does a good job of explaining Connecticut Practice and the cost of buying the book is less than the cost of implementing the new regime and learning it. 

Finally, for a young associate’s development, there is nothing quite like powering through trying to figure out if you need to file a “request” or a “motion” to prepare her for the life of a litigator.  It can be frustrating; it can be stultifying.  Then, we experience the glorious aha! moment when it all makes sense. 

And that can be beautiful and satisfying. 

Comments (2)

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Ellen S. Nurse - December 7, 2011 3:12 PM

Constables in the state of connecticut can serve the same civil process as State Marshal.

Frances Codd Slusarz - December 7, 2011 4:39 PM

Thanks for your comment, Ellen. I've never used a Constable before. As municipal officers, can a Constable be hired to serve process in a private litigation matter?

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