L.D. v. G.T., 210 Conn. App. 864 (2022) (restraining order; complete denial of cross examination constitutes abuse of discretion)
Officially released March 1, 2022
In Short: It is abuse of discretion for the trial court to deny a party the right to cross-examination.
The parties are the parents of one child. The child was three months old when, in September 2020, Plaintiff filed an application for relief from abuse pursuant to § 46b-15. Plaintiff averred in her affidavit that Defendant threatened her life, intimidated her with guns, blackmailed her and tracked her location without her knowledge or consent, along with a list of additional disturbing allegations including sexual assault against Plaintiff and force-feeding of the child. The trial court issued an ex parte order of protection and set down a hearing date to determine whether to extend the order. A custody matter was pending, a police investigation was pending, and DCF had opened an investigation.
Plaintiff testified at the hearing in a manner consistent with her application. Defendant’s counsel sought to cross-examine Plaintiff and the trial court refused to permit the cross-examination. Defendant declined to testify per his right against self-incrimination. The trial court then entered a protective order for six months, including a full no-contact order which extended to the child.
Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration seeking contact with the minor child. Defendant also filed a motion for modification requesting permission to communicate for purpose of arranging parenting time as DCF had requested to observe Defendant with the child. The trial court denied the motion for reconsideration without testimony. Both parties testified as to the motion to modify. The trial court denied the motion finding no change in circumstances to warrant the modification.
Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court abused its discretion by not affording him any opportunity to cross examine the Plaintiff during the hearing on the application for relief from abuse. Defendant made numerous Constitutional arguments which the Appellate Court did not reach.
The Appellate Court reviewed this as a claim for improperly limiting cross-examination of a witness under the abuse of discretion standard. The Appellate Court cited Rousseau v. Perricone, 148 Conn. App. 837, 844 (2014) for the principle that “[a]lthough it is axiomatic that the scope of cross-examination generally rests within the discretion of the trial court, [t]he denial of all meaningful cross-examination into a legitimate inquiry constitutes an abuse of discretion.” The Appellate Court disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning that because this was a hearing as opposed to a trial that cross-examination was not necessary and made clear that this was an easy reversal.
The Appellate Court noted that, although the order had expired, it was not moot due to collateral adverse consequences, citing C.A. v. G.L., 201 Conn. App. 734, 736 n.4 (2020).
The judgment was reversed and remanded with direction to vacate the order of protection.