719 A.2d 1210
(AC 17540)Appellate Court of Connecticut
Foti, Landau and Spear, Js.
The pro se plaintiff, who had successfully appealed to the trial court from the decision by the defendant freedom of information commission denying in part his request for certain information, appealed to this court from the trial court’s denial of his request for reasonable fees and expenses. The plaintiff, not having sought articulation of the trial court’s determination that the commission had substantial justification for its action, failed to provide an adequate record for this court to review his claim.
Argued September 24, 1998
Officially released November 17, 1998
Appeal from the decision by the named defendant denying, in part, the plaintiff’s appeal from the denial by the defendant department of banking of his request for certain information, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford-New Britain at Hartford and tried to the court, McWeeny, J.; judgment sustaining the plaintiff’s appeal and ordering the disclosure of the requested information; thereafter, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for fees and expenses, and the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Eric J. Youngquist, pro se, the appellant (plaintiff).
Victor R. Perpetua, commission counsel, with whom, on the brief, was Mitchell W. Pearlman, general counsel, for the appellee (named defendant).
Gregory T. D’Auria, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were Richard Blumenthal, attorney general, an Christopher L. Levesque, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (defendant department of banking).
The pro se plaintiff, Eric J. Youngquist, appeals from the judgment of the trial court denying his motion for fees and expenses filed pursuant to General Statutes § 4-184a
(b). He claims that the trial court improperly (1) concluded that the defendant freedom of information commission (commission) had substantial justification for its action and (2) denied his motion for reasonable fees and expenses, including the value of his time as a pro se litigant. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
The following facts are relevant to this appeal. After the state department of banking (department) denied
his request for the names and address of certain department employees, the plaintiff filed an appeal with the commission seeking disclosure of the names and addresses. Following hearings on the matter, the commission ordered such disclosure, but only with respect to those department employees who had not objected to disclosure. The plaintiff appealed from that decision to the trial court, which ordered the release of the names and addresses of all the department employees requested by the plaintiff. The department released the information as ordered. The plaintiff thereafter filed a motion for fees and expenses pursuant to General Statutes § 4-184a (b).
The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for fees and expenses and noted, in full: “Motion denied. [The commission] had substantial justification for its action pursuant to decision i West Hartford v. FOIC, 218 Conn. 256 [588 A.2d 1368] (1991).” Following the trial court’s ruling, the plaintiff did not seek an articulation. Therefore, as a preliminary matter, we must determine whether the record is adequate for our review of the plaintiff’s claims.
In general, “[t]he decision to award attorney’s fees for unjustified agency actions is within the discretion of the trial court. See General Statutes § 4-184a (b); Labenski v. Goldberg, 41 Conn. App. 866, 871, 678 A.2d 496, cert. denied, 239 Conn. 910, 682 A.2d 1002 (1996). Thus, § 4-184a (b) provides that the `court may, in its discretion,’ award reasonable fees to the prevailing party if the court determines that the agency acted `without any substantial justification.'” (Emphasis in
original.) Burinskas v. Dept. of Social Services, 240 Conn. 141, 154, 691 A.2d 586 (1997).
Our Supreme Court has “concluded that substantial justification . . . connotes reasonableness or a reasonable basis in law or fact . . . [and has] construed § 4-184a (b) as requiring an action that is entirely unreasonable or without any reasonable basis in law or fact.” (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Assn. of Not-for-Profit Providers for the Aging v Dept. of Social Services, 244 Conn. 378, 401, 709 A.2d 1116 (1998). Therefore, in reviewing the plaintiff’s claim that the trial court improperly found that the commission had “substantial justification” for its action, we must determine whether the trial court properly concluded that the commission had a reasonable basis in both law and fact to deny the plaintiff’s request. Se McDonald v. Rowe, 43 Conn. App. 39, 42-43, 682 A.2d 542 (1996).
Because there were no findings of fact made by the trial court, however, we have nothing to review to determine whether the facts are sufficient to support the conclusion that “substantial justification” existed for denying the plaintiff’s request for disclosure. In other words, we cannot determine whether there was a “reasonable basis in fact” for the action taken by the commission. We have consistently stated that it is the responsibility of the appellant to provide an adequate record for review. Practice Book § 61-10, formerly § 4007. “[W]e cannot render a decision without first having specific findings of fact to determine the basis of the court’s ruling.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Gorneault v. Gorneault, 34 Conn. App. 923, 924, 642 A.2d 734, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 911, 648 A.2d 152 (1994).
We do not seek a return to the onerous “finding system.”
Nevertheless, because we have not been
provided with the trial court’s factual basis for its ruling, we cannot reach the issue of whether the trial court acted properly. To review this claim, we would have “to surmise or speculate as to the existence of a factual predicate for the trial court’s rulings.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Chase Manhattan Bank/City Trust v. AECO Elevator Co., 48 Conn. App. 605, 608, 710 A.2d 190 (1998). We, therefore, decline to review this matter.
The judgment is affirmed.
In this opinion the other judges concurred.
(1993) (O’Connell, J., concurring); M. Tyler, `The Findings of Facts in Connecticut,’ 4 Conn. B.J. 265, 265-67 (1930). This system often caused the trial judge to pore over the transcripts months or years after the trial, causing lengthy delays for taking an appeal. W. Horton, supra, 51.” Lauer v. Zoning Commission, 246 Conn. 251, 260, 716 A.2d 840 (1998).