District of Connecticut
The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut is the federal district court whose jurisdiction comprises the entire state of Connecticut. The court hears cases involving violations of federal law, including civil cases between citizens of different states if the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Connecticut constitutes one judicial district, with courthouses located in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven.
History and Overview
Formation of the District
The District of Connecticut was one of the original 13 district courts established by the Judiciary Act of 1789. It was granted jurisdiction over federal legal matters arising in Connecticut. Prior to that, federal cases were heard by state courts and appeals were made directly to the Supreme Court.
The District of Connecticut spans the entire state of Connecticut. Covering 4,845 square miles, Connecticut is geographically the third smallest state in the U.S. after Rhode Island and Delaware. Despite its small size, Connecticut has a population of over 3.5 million residents.
Connecticut is divided into 8 counties, although these counties serve more as geographic designations than functional governmental entities. The state does not have county governments, unlike most other states. The largest cities in Connecticut are Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, and Waterbury. Hartford is the state capital and Bridgeport is the largest city.
Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse
The Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse, located in New Haven, is the main federal courthouse serving the District of Connecticut. It is a 17-story building completed in 1919. The courthouse was renamed in 1975 after the late New Haven mayor Richard C. Lee. It contains courtrooms and chambers for district court and bankruptcy court judges.
In addition to New Haven, the District of Connecticut holds court in Bridgeport and Hartford. The courthouse in Bridgeport contains two courtrooms and the courthouse in Hartford contains three courtrooms. Cases may be heard in any of the three courthouse locations.
Although Connecticut is one judicial district, it is divided into three internal divisions for administrative and clerical purposes: Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.
The Hartford division serves Hartford county and the northern part of the state. The division’s courthouse is located in Hartford.
New Haven Division
The New Haven division serves New Haven county and handles most of the district’s cases. Its courthouse is the Richard C. Lee Courthouse in downtown New Haven.
The Bridgeport division covers Fairfield county in the southwestern portion of Connecticut. It is headquartered in the Bridgeport courthouse.
The District of Connecticut has eight authorized district court judgeships, along with magistrate judges and bankruptcy judges. District court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to lifetime appointments. The current Chief Judge is Janet C. Hall, who assumed the role in 2018 after nine years on the district court bench.
The U.S. Attorney is the top federal law enforcement officer in the district. He or she is nominated by the President and leads a staff of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecute cases. The district’s current U.S. Attorney is Vanessa Roberts Avery.
The U.S. Marshal oversees security for the district’s courthouses and protection of the federal judiciary. The Marshal position is currently vacant in the District of Connecticut.
Federal Cases and Controversies
District courts like Connecticut hear both civil and criminal matters involving federal law. They handle trials, sentencing, and other proceedings for both felonies and misdemeanors.
The District of Connecticut has handled many influential cases over the years, including Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case filed in 1970. Other major cases include USA v. Joseph T. Fesko, involving insider trading charges against a Wall Street broker, and In Re Baby M, resolving a surrogate parenting dispute.
Current Major Cases
Current notable cases before the court include multiple opioid lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, as well as Dodd v. Blue Cross Blue Shield, a benefits coverage class action lawsuit.
Comparison to Other Districts
The District of Connecticut is medium-sized compared to other federal judicial districts. It has fewer judges and filings than larger districts like the Southern District of New York, but more activity than smaller districts like the District of Wyoming. According to Federal Court Management Statistics, Connecticut ranks 42nd out of 90 districts based on number of case filings.
To contact the District of Connecticut, call the New Haven courthouse clerk’s office at (203) 773-2107. Individual courthouse addresses and phone numbers are available on the district’s website at www.ctd.uscourts.gov. Forinformation on specific cases, contact the office of the district clerk.
For over 200 years, the District of Connecticut has served the state by upholding federal law. With courthouses in the major cities of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, the court handles hundreds of cases each year on issues ranging from corporate litigation to drug crimes. The district will continue its important role within the federal judiciary system for the people of Connecticut.
How many federal judges serve the District of Connecticut?
The District of Connecticut currently has eight federal district court judges, along with magistrate and bankruptcy judges.
What are the three divisions of the district?
The divisions are Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, named after the city where each division’s courthouse is located.
Who is the current U.S. Attorney?
The current U.S. Attorney is Vanessa Roberts Avery, nominated in 2021 by President Biden.
Does the district cover the whole state?
Yes, the District of Connecticut encompasses all eight counties and the entire geographic area of Connecticut.
Where is the main courthouse located?
The Richard C. Lee U.S. Courthouse in New Haven serves as the main district courthouse. It houses the clerk’s office and most of the district’s judges.