Attorney General: Mitchell R. Harris, Esq., State Marshal Commission, 2002-017 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

May 31, 2002

Mitchell R. Harris, Esq.
Chairman
State Marshal Commission
765 Asylum Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

Dear Attorney Harris:

You have asked for our opinion regarding the State Marshal Commission’s authority to investigate and, if appropriate, withdraw the appointment of a state marshal for improper conduct engaged in prior to December 1, 2000. You have provided us with a copy of a letter complaining about the actions of a former deputy sheriff (who is now a state marshal) pertaining to a wage execution matter that began in 1996. For reasons explained below, it is our opinion that the Commission may investigate alleged improper conduct engaged in prior to December 1, 2000 and may take appropriate action against the state marshal, up to and including removal after notice and hearing, if the Commission determines that the conduct has a bearing on the person’s current suitability to be a state marshal.

By way of background, Public Act 00-99, An Act Reforming The Sheriff System, eliminated the position of deputy sheriff and created the position of "state marshal" effective December 1, 2000, subject to the approval by the voters of a constitutional amendment eliminating county sheriffs. Section 8 of the Act (codified as Conn. Gen. Stat. §6-38b), which was effective on April 27, 2000, created the State Marshal Commission and authorized the Commission to (among other things) "...establish professional standards, including training requirements and minimum fees for execution and service of process...[that] shall be in force and effect by December 1, 2000..." (§6-38b(f)); and "...adopt such rules as it deems necessary for conduct of its internal affairs...." (§6-38b(j). Conn. Gen. Stat. §6-38a defines the term "state marshal" to mean "a qualified deputy sheriff incumbent on June 30, 2000, under section 6-38 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, or appointed pursuant to section 8 of this act who shall have authority to provide legal execution and service of process in the counties in this state pursuant to section 6-38 of the general statutes, as amended by this act...." Thus, any person who was serving as a deputy sheriff on June 30, 2000 and notified the Chief Court Administrator of the desire to be appointed as state marshal (pursuant to the provisions of §6-38f(b)(1)) became a state marshal on December 1, 2000.

We understand from conversations with your staff that professional standards required by §§ 6-38b(f) were adopted by the Commission and were effective on December 1, 2000, and that you are now in the process of seeking to have those standards adopted as regulations pursuant to the provisions of June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-9, §8(f). To the extent that conduct by a current State Marshal violates those standards of professional conduct, such conduct calls into question the state marshal's suitability to hold his or her position. The former sheriff's system was abolished because of widespread abuses by former sheriffs and their deputies, and the new statutory scheme establishing State Marshals and the State Marshal Commission was specifically designed to ensure that the position of State Marshal would only be held by individuals whose conduct demonstrated that they were suitable for the position. Under such circumstances, it would not make sense to limit the Commission to reviewing the conduct of current state marshals to actions occurring after December 1, 2000, particularly if such conduct has a bearing on a state marshal's suitability to fulfill the responsibilities of his or her position. We believe that the legislative intent in creating the State Marshal system and the Commission’s adoption of Professional Standards allow the Commission, if it deems appropriate, to initiate an investigation of activities that occurred prior to December 1, 2000, if the alleged activities would have a bearing on a State Marshal's current responsibilities.

The second part of your inquiry asks whether the Commission may, "...if appropriate, withdraw the appointment of a State Marshal for improper conduct engaged in prior to December 1, 2000...." The relevant statutes do not authorize the Commission to "withdraw" an appointment. Rather, Conn. Gen. Stat. §6-38b(i) provides that "[n]o state marshal shall be removed except by order of the commission for cause after due notice and hearing." We are informed that the Commission’s duly adopted Professional Standards describe several grounds for such removal, after an investigation, notice and hearing, including a finding that the marshal "...lacks the ability, knowledge, skill or professional judgment to perform the duties of a State Marshal", "..failed to maintain any of the qualifications" for the position, or "for other cause shown." It is our opinion that if the facts established during the investigation and subsequent hearing, even if they predatethe state marshal system, have a bearing on the person’s current suitability to be a state marshal, as set forth in the Professional Standards, the Commission, pursuant to those standards, may act on those facts.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL


Margaret Q. Chapple
Assistant Attorney General

RB/MQC


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