Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Supreme Court's final word on the River Sound case

This past summer the state Appellate Court released its decision in River Sound Development, LLC v. Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, affirming the Old Saybrook wetlands agency's denial of a wetlands permit for a golf course, 221 residential units, roads and associated infrastructure. At the time I posted a number of entries on this blog about the decision -- regarding the jurisdiction of agencies to regulate activities outside of the officially adopted upland review area and the consideration of wildlife. Later in the summer, River Sound Development petitioned for certification to appeal to the state Supreme Court, there being no direct right to further appeal.

On October 12, 2010 the Supreme Court published its decision denying River Sound Development's petition for certification. The full citation now reads: 122 Conn. App. 644, cert. denied, 298 Conn. 920 (2010). And with that, the Supreme Court declined to utter anything either about the Appellate Court's decision or its legal analysis.

One of the readers of this blog inquired what can be read into the Supreme Court's decision and what that means for the Appellate Court decision. Well, the Supreme Court took pains, more recently in October, to remind us that we can read absolutely nothing into its decisions to deny certification. "We have made it clear that a denial of a petition for certification to appeal does not signify that this court [the Supreme Court] approves of or affirms the decision or judgment of the Appellate Court." Potvin v. Lincoln Service and Equipment Co., 298 Conn. 620, 653 (2010). It leaves for another day, if ever, for the Supreme Court to weigh the issues and pronounce a decision.

What does that mean for the Appellate Court decision? In the absence of a Supreme Court decision, it is binding precedent. And what if another Appellate Court decision decided a few years earlier is not consistent (as it seems to me) at least as to jurisdiction over activities outside of the adopted upland review area? That is a legal wrinkle to be smoothed out by the Supreme Court in another appeal.

While the River Sound case may be over, the last word on the proposed activities for the property has yet to be uttered.

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