CHRO: Green v. SNET Co. et al., Ruling on Objection to Interrogatories

Green v. SNET Co. et al., Ruling on Objection to Interrogatories
Green v. SNET Co. et al., Ruling on Objection to Interrogatories

CHRO No. 9420217

Commission on Human Rights : and Opportunities, ex rel
Devon Green, Complainant  
v.
Southern New England Telephone Co. and Diedrick Hohn, Respondents

April 12, 2000

 

RULING ON OBJECTION TO INTERROGATORIES

On or about February 16, 2000, the respondents served upon the complainant and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ("the commission") a series of discovery requests comprising seven requests for production and twelve interrogatories. On April 11, 2000, the commission filed a timely objection to the interrogatories. For the reasons set forth below, I sustain the commission’s objection.

Parties have no general or constitutional right to prehearing discovery in an administrative proceeding. Pet v. Department of Health Services, 207 Conn. 346, 356 (1988). Although prehearing discovery may be expressly allowed by statute or, absent statutory authorization, by the regulations of the administrative agency, Pet, 207 Conn. at 357, where no statute or regulation provides for prehearing discovery, an agency hearing officer lacks authority to grant a request for same. Rogers v. County Commission, 141 Conn. 426, 429 (1954); CHRO ex rel. Thergood v. YMCA, Ruling on Motion to Dispose, CHRO No. 9520722 (January 16, 1998).

The Uniform Administrative Procedure Act ("UAPA"), General Statutes §§4-166 et seq., provides only for the inspection of documents. According to §4-177c:

(a) In a contested case, each party and the agency conducting the proceeding shall be afforded the opportunity to (1) inspect and copy relevant and material records, papers and documents not in the possession of the party or such agency, except as otherwise provided by federal law or any other provision of the general statutes . . .

This narrow provision is mirrored in the commission’s rules of practice at §46-54-98 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies ("regulations"). Neither the UAPA nor the rules of practice allow the use of interrogatories, and the commission’s human rights referees have no authority to allow discovery beyond that provided in the statutes and regulations. Castro v. Viera, 207 Conn. 420 (1988); CHRO ex rel. Isler v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, Ruling on Discovery Motions, CHRO # 9730024 (March 3, 1999); CHRO ex rel. Centopani v. Itex Total Office System, Ruling on Motion for Enlargement of Time, CHRO No. 9320010 (December 15, 1993).

Sections 46a-54 and 46-88 of the General Statutes and §46a-54-71 of the regulations unequivocally provide the commission--and only the commission--with the authority to issue and enforce written interrogatories, but this occurs only during the investigatory process. The legislature has created no such provisions, however, for any party after the investigatory phase is completed and the case is certified to hearing before this tribunal.

Furthermore, although parties may voluntarily exchange information in any fashion they contemplate in order to facilitate the proceeding, human rights referees lack authority either to order compliance with interrogatories or to impose sanctions for failure to do so. Accordingly, the commission’s objection to the respondent’s interrogatories is sustained.

Dated at Hartford, CT this ___ day of April 2000..

_________________________

David S. Knishkowy
Human Rights Referee

cc: S. Gordon
A. Simonetti
J. Weitz-Clancy
C. Wilder
R. Pech





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