Does Judge Bellis Have A Conflict Of Interest In Vallas Case?

Barbara Bellis
Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. Photo courtesy CT Post.

Should Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis–who ruled Paul Vallas lacks the proper legal qualifications to serve as chief of city schools–have shifted the case to another court district? That’s an argument lawyers representing Vallas have made for the record and may very well also bring up on appeal. The lawsuit against Vallas was brought by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez whose husband Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe works in the same courthouse as Bellis. Bellis is the civil presiding judge in Bridgeport court who assigns cases to Radcliffe.

Bellis’ time as a judge overlapped with Lopez who retired from the bench in 2008. Bellis was appointed to the bench in June 2003. Court records show Deputy City Attorney Art Laske raised the potential conflict on the record with Bellis arguing during court hearings that a presiding judge hearing a case brought by the spouse of a judicial underling is “too close for comfort.” Laske asked Bellis to recuse herself from the case and move the trial to a different court jurisdiction arguing how it was possible for Bellis to rule against a plaintiff’s spouse she works with every day. Bellis responded she had no conflict and heard the matter.

Last week Bellis ruled Vallas lacked the legal qualifications to serve as superintendent of schools asserting the state cut corners in expediting a certification plan on Vallas’ behalf. Vallas was hired to lead city schools 18 months ago at the urging of State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. The Board of Education eventually authorized a three-year contract for Vallas who had supervised school systems in  Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans.

Bellis has become a high-profile jurist the past two years involving Bridgeport cases. In 2011, she ordered mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster’s name be placed on the ballot after election officials rejected her petition application to wage a Democratic primary against Mayor Bill Finch. Bellis also was part of a three-judge panel that rejected an application for reinstatement of a law license by former Mayor Joe Ganim who was convicted on corruption charges in 2003.

The city’s in the process of crafting its appeal response. It’s possible the appeal may go directly to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The city is expected to hire a legal appellate specialist in the Vallas case. Meanwhile Vallas remains in charge of the school system during the appeal process.

After retiring from the bench in 2008, Lopez became active in city education issues aligning herself with Connecticut’s Working Families Party that opposed Vallas’ appointment. In 2009 Lopez sought the endorsement for a Board of Education seat from the 90-member Democratic Town Committee. She was not endorsed. She did not wage a primary. This is an election year for five Board of Education seats.



  1. You know, these lawyers must have a point here.

    I’ve never heard of a Bridgeport public official ever violating a state or federal law.

    It has to be the fault of the judge.

  2. Since it is Wimbledon time, I don’t think Bellis double faulted. She aced the city with her serve. Art had a foot fault when he inserted in his mouth.

  3. Well, then doesn’t Pryor have a conflict of interest when ruling on anything related to Vallas? They go way back too.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Once again procedures, rules, laws only apply when they suit your case and your guy.

    The V team is getting desperate. I thought they were sure the appeal would fly and he would be able to stay. What’s up?

    1. Their goal is to repair the reputation of the Finch-dubbed “rock star.” That is most important first and foremost … the kids, nah … not so much. They may get a few ancillary benefits: paper, pencils, bubble tests, more bubble tests, practice bubble tests, awards for bubble tests, ceremonies for the award for bubble tests … that kind of stuff.

  4. So this is how scumbag lawyers like Laske and Anastasi work, if they can’t win a case by lying or cheating, then they do the next best thing, they belittle a good judge.
    And we pay these Fluckers?

    Just remember folks, this is a government that serves itself.

  5. Conflict of interest … Pryor must step down or Vallas … we can’t have them both if you follow the logic above.

    Same rules for all boys … no special treatment for “rock stars or educelebrities.”

    In addition to his New Orleans post, Vallas has volunteered in Haiti and Chile after earthquakes there.

    It was in New Orleans, and later Haiti, Vallas came to know Stefan Pryor, the state’s new commissioner of education, who was also volunteering his time. Vallas recently worked on Pryor’s transition team and was introduced to Robert Trefry, chairman of the Bridgeport school board. Vallas was one of two candidates Trefry said was interviewed for the interim post.

  6. Lennie,
    I’m confused …s ee what Vallas said yesterday:
    “The city attorney’s office has appealed Bellis’ decision and a stay was placed on the ruling, Vallas said, allowing him to continue working, he expects, well into the upcoming school year.”

    So according to Vallas, the city has already appealed.

    According to you, they are presently crafting an appeal. Which is it?

    Could it be possible Vallas is stretching the truth?

    Also, who would be paying for the legal appellate specialist?

    It must be Vallas, correct?

      1. Vallas and his outside supporters need to pay, not the taxpayers of this city. Get organized for a class action lawsuit … paved driveways, free legal counsel for fly-by-night saviors … what else did I forget?

  7. Grasping at straws. Why is it the media is making this case strictly about Carmen Lopez? What about the parent of the school children who also joined the suit? Is a relative of this parent also working for the court? I don’t think so! Talking about conflicts of interest. There was no conflict with Moales getting school funds for the daycare he runs. There was no conflict when Tom Mulligan set up the lease deal between the BOE and the Bridgeport Diocese. On two occasions years past, Tito Ayala applied for a liquor permit for his restaurant. St. Peter’s Church opposed the application and on both hearings, Tom Mulligan was the attorney representing St. Peters in opposition to the liquor permit application. Surely Mulligan abstained during the BOE vote, but he did all he needed to do as a BOE member with access to the decision makers.

    1. No conflict with Pryor having started Amistad and Achievement First.

      No conflict putting Andrea Comer on the state BOE with ties to Jumoke and AF. No ties growing the AF chain while they suspend baby scholars left and right.

      No conflict at all with Alan Taylor, State BOE chairman, serving on the ConnCon Board. No conflict at all … only when it doesn’t suit the eduschemers.

      No conflict with Moales and his day care/preschool centers getting funding from the state as he serves on the BOE. He did end his bid for a charter school … maybe that would have been too much.

      And who is the guy with the uniform company who votes to require uniforms and he serves on the BOE?


  8. On another note, how did the 53 and 85 Seaview Avenue vote turn out on yesterday’s city council meeting? As I had posted here when Lennie posted the agenda for Monday, the Seaview Avenue buy/lease deal for the contaminated land (3 acres) wasn’t on Lennie’s posted agenda. Only Andre Baker raised some concern about this.

    When a buyer is interested in buying a house, it is a rule of thumb to have the house inspected for lead, asbestos, mold termites, and any other issue with the land or building. Only in Bridgeport will 19 fools with other people’s money buy land with no questions asked. The city Attorney’s position the alleged remediation documents pertaining to this land is proprietary information is bullshit.

    Here is a link to a list of contaminate sites (see Bridgeport) and you’ll see the nearest site to 53 Seaview Avenue is 20-40 Seaview Avenue. The city attorney stated last night the documents showed to them by the Julians showed they cleaned up the property in three phases. The address does not appear on this list which goes back a decade. Can CW4BB look into this a little more? EPA records are supposed to be public and I’m sure there should be some documentation of the three-phase cleanup somewhere other than in the Julians’ private records.

    1. One more point, if the contamination details are proprietary, how did I know the land was and still is contaminated before any mention of this was ever made by the city or the Julians? Just another poorly kept secret.

      1. Voted to move it forward with 4 no votes, very heated exchange between Finch and Angle DePara with Silva reprimanding the mayor–it was fantastic! Good questions from Baker, DePara–you missed a very good council meeting!

  9. Great quote:
    “Mayor Finch is hoping that Vallas will do for Bridgeport what he did for Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.”

    Let’s hope Paul Vallas does for Mayor Finch what Michelle Rhee did for Adrian Fenty.

    Time will tell. 🙂

    1. So now you like that sign-off line? It serves well for most of what we post in terms of community ideas. And it does take time … for events to unfold … and each of us to find a role to play towards our personal goals … and … time will tell.

  10. I believe the blog posting topic is conflict of interest.

    We all know the city attorney would not tolerate conflict of interest in city matters. Correct? Except matters relating to McCarthy and the city council perhaps.

    The suggestion of conflict of interest by Bellis is paper thin.


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