House lawyer named as claims commissioner

Christy Scott of West Hartford, a lawyer employed by the House Democratic majority, was named Friday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to the $135,000-a-year post of state claims commissioner, a legal backwater that became controversial in recent months.

Scott, a graduate of Smith College and the University of Connecticut School of Law, has been a legal adviser to the House Democratic caucus since 2007. She is a former clerk to the state Supreme Court and director of the Office of the Child Advocate.

J. Paul Vance Jr., under fire for awarding $16.8 million last month to compensate four members of a New Haven gang whose murder convictions were set aside, submitted his resignation last month, effective March 4.

Legislators are now considering revisions to the powers of the claims commissioner, whose job is evaluate everything from damages in slip-and-fall cases on state property to compensating people for years of wrongful incarceration.

The claims commissioner has the authority to resolve claims up to $20,000 and to recommend settlements to the legislature in bigger cases, with the notable exception of wrongful conviction cases.

The New Haven case was not the first multi-million dollar award for a wrongful conviction, but it was unique.

In three other cases,  DNA evidence exonerated the wrongfully accused and convicted other defendants. The New Haven defendants were freed after the state Supreme Court ordered new trials because of prosecutorial misconduct.

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