Bittle v. Commissioner of Social Services
In Bittle v. Commissioner of Social Services, 249 Conn. 503, 734 A.2d 551 (1999) the question was whether service through the use of certified mail was timely when it was mailed, but not delivered, within the statutory period for such service.
In Bittle, the court read the statute's legislative history as demonstrative of a legislative intent "to enhance rather than constrain" the rights of an administrative appellant. Id. at 506-507.
Amendments subsequent to the enactment of the statute were designed to "simplify administrative procedures in order to make the administrative process easier, and thus more practically useful to the public." Id. at 514.
The 1988 amendment of Conn. Gen. Stats. 4-183, for example, was intended to "greatly enhance the administrative practices in the state of Connecticut and enhance them from the point of view of the consumer, the public." Id. at 513.
The Court construed 4-183 (c), which requires service of an appeal from the decision of an administrative agency within forty-five days after the mailing of the agency's final decision.
The plaintiff, using certified mail, return receipt requested, had mailed the appeal documents forty-four days after the mailing of the agency's decision, and they were received forty-eight days after the mailing of the agency's decision. Id. 249 Conn. at 504-505.
The trial court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the documents had not been received by the agency until forty-eight days after the mailing of the decision by the agency. Id. The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, concluding that service under 4-183 (c) is not completed until the appeal papers are in the actual possession of the administrative agency or the attorney general, whether service is by certified mail or in-hand service. Bittle v. Commissioner of Social Services, 48 Conn. App. 711, 717, 711 A.2d 1198, rev'd, 249 Conn. 503, 734 A.2d 551 (1999).
The Supreme Court reversed this judgment, concluding that "to perfect service pursuant to 4-183 (c) (1), an appellant needs only to have the appeal postmarked within the forty-five day period." Bittle v. Commissioner of Social Services, supra, 249 Conn. at 523.
In reaching that conclusion, the Supreme Court reviewed the legislative history of 4-183, stating that "the option to have service made by mail was added to the statute to make appellate procedures simpler by taking advantage of the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and ease of using the mail.