State Rep. Stafstrom: How About Consolidating State Courthouses To Save Money?

Social distancing: Rep. Craig Fishbein, left, and Rep. Steve Stafstrom debate a judicial reappointment in a House largely emptied due to the COVID-19. MARK PAZNIOKAS : CTMIRROR.ORG

Connecticut creams courthouses like hot fudge sundaes. While Governor Ned Lamont put a quiet freeze on judicial appointments one unintended consequence of Covid is the potential consolidation of courthouses.

We now all live in a zoom era, for the better in some circumstances, that includes public and professional consideration for the judicial process. Remember those days sitting in a courtroom for hours waiting to be called for an ordinary matter now handled remotely?

Bridgeport State Rep. Steve Stafstrom holds a powerful position as House chair of the Judiciary Committee. He’s also an attorney who knows what it’s like to navigate circuitous courthouses around the state. Times like these provide perspective.

CT Mirror reporter Mark Pazniokas shares Stafstrom’s take on this new judicial era.

He recently had one video conference scheduled for midday before a judge in Stamford.

“And instead of me sitting in the car for an hour and a half, fighting the traffic from Bridgeport down to Stamford to wait around the courthouse for an hour for a case to be called, I’m going to zoom into this conference for 20 minutes,” Stafstrom said. “It takes a lot less personnel. It’s a lot easier on the lawyers. It’s a lot cheaper for the clients.”

Stafstrom said technology never would eliminate the need for in-person proceedings, particularly for trials and arguments on significant motions, but it can and should streamline routine business.

“And frankly, I think, eventually you could get to a point where you could really kind of consolidate even some courts,” Stafstrom said. “I mean, we have an inordinate amount of courthouses in the state of Connecticut.”

Full story here.



  1. “Times like these provide perspective.”

    Really, Lennie? A conflict of interest is all it provides. Sort of reminds me of all the years Nancy Dinardo served as State Democratic Party Chairwoman. All the changes to chapter 13 of CONNECTICUT GENERAL STATUTES which covers Taxes were designed to benefit rich developers like herself and her family.

  2. I understand the reasoning for consolidation and more &more companies going remote with their workforce, but the trickle down affect of of “ the new norm” is going to devastate small businesses like coffee shops, lunch places, variety stores, etc,etc..
    Just think about our downtown, BEFORE the pandemic a lot of those small businesses were barely hanging on,now take away the foot traffic that the court houses generate??, no way they could survive…A lot of businesses around the country have already closed up or are surviving with help from gov’t loans,once the loans stop and the big corporations stay remote with their work force??, then we will really see the devastation of this pandemic.

  3. It’s a dumb idea. That this COVID, “virtual” world will be nearly as permanent/pervasive as “futurists” are forecasting is just dumb… (As the COVID-spreader parties and illegally-packed restaurants/bars, etc., clearly indicate…)

    The idea that human beings are willing to reduce their existences to virtual transactions on a universal basis, over all areas, is idiotic. (How about planning a nice night of virtual dining, on-the (virtual)-town, as part of a “virtual” romantic evening?… Perhaps with a “virtual” partner!…)

    In our legal system, if one is accused of a crime, and brought to trial for such, we have the right to demand a trial in which we are presumably/implicitly provided with the right to face our accusers in person and to have our trial heard, and the verdict decided, by a jury of our peers (whom we can see/observe/face in proximity, in real time, during the trial)… I — and I’m sure most others — would take legal issue with the system if brought to trial in a situation where there wasn’t an option to face accuser(s) and be present during the proceedings in proximity to the jury… The Founding Fathers were visionaries, but certainly didn’t have the Internet and virtual reality in mind when setting up the basis for our legal system. Even if they had, there is ample evidence that they were of a mind that human transactions on life-and-death and freedom issues needed to be highly personal — and up-close — for such transactions to be effective and valid… These were men who settled even not-so-serious matters — even personal effrontery — by sword fights and pistol duels! They would have never provided for the criminally accused to lose freedom, life, or significant property/wealth through a virtual process…

    Even small, magistrate-determined matters, such as traffic tickets, aren’t necessarily amenable to virtual proceedings. In modern business transactions, the up-close “human” factor that fair treatment/judgments often require, is often deliberately avoided by making modern transactions virtual (e.g., try arguing a utility overcharge online and getting a prompt, complete rectification…)

    And, with a growing population, expanding in all types of municipalities across the state, it seems highly-unlikely that there will be a permanent reduction in the need for services provided by the courts in coming years… The temporary lull in enforcement of various, non-lethal, but otherwise enforceable/prosecutable, serious/minor crimes, will not persist beyond this pandemic crisis, as enforcement/prosecution of all manner of serious/minor crimes that has been suppressed, per COVID-risk prioritization, rebounds in response to the societal demands of a non-COVID-intimidated world… (This will e quite pronounced in the the relatively-near future, as our COVID-ravaged economy and COVID-stressed populace act-out in economic need and emotional exhaustion…)

    So; while some court-based proceedings might be susceptible to virtual proceedings, closing temporarily-underused courts (presumably in smaller municipalities) and funneling the burden for such non-lucrative services to urban centers from smaller towns (the probable, real reason for this idea), is just another dumb, nickel-and-dime political ploy by another nickel-and-dime Bridgeport GA member who is afraid to actually go after real change in Hartford that would do something real, and of significance, for the city from which he was elected to the GA. But not to single-out just one Bridgeport GA member… The whole Bridgeport GA — every member — can be described as lame and ineffectual — in terms of what they have done in Harford to help Bridgeport regain its socioeconomic footing and statewide respect… They should all just stay in sweat pants and shut off their computers for this session… Save on electricity while saving on gas and doing something real, however small, to reach 0-carbon in Connecticut…


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