Overview

Mark J. Sommaruga has spent nearly 28 years proudly representing the interests of public agencies, schools (whether traditional/public, magnet, charter or private), and employers in Connecticut. Among other things, Mark has extensive experience in counseling and representing public and private sector clients in labor, employment, education, and municipal law issues, including Freedom Information Act (“FOIA”) matters. Mark is the author of Understanding Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act (Fifth Edition, 2018); his book is published by Pullman & Comley and jointly distributed with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (“CABE”) and provides guidance to public agencies and their members (not to mention members of the public) seeking to navigate the maze of edicts and exceptions associated with the FOIA. Mark prides himself on being a self-described FOIA nerd.  While Mark has ample experience litigating cases before courts at all levels, and administrative agencies of all kind, including several cases of first impression, Mark takes the most satisfaction in advising clients with practical solutions to address their day to day needs.

Mark is a member of the Labor, Employment Law and Employee Benefits Department, currently serving as its vice chairman, and the School Law Section. Mark routinely counsels and represents his clients on labor, employment, education law, and any legal issue that effects their day to day operations, especially FOIA issues. He routinely advises clients on a wide range of employment law matters, including hiring, discipline/termination, compensation, leave, accommodations, discrimination, sexual harassment, and personnel policies and procedures.  He also routinely counsels school clients on a wide variety of education law issues, including student discipline, special education, discrimination, abuse/neglect, residency/school accommodations, and policy review, along with counseling clients in disputes with vendors and contractors (including construction matters) and with and between municipal and state agencies.  Mark represents his clients in the state and federal courts on both the trial and appellate court levels, as well as before various state and federal agencies such as the State of Connecticut and U.S. Departments of Education, the Connecticut Department of Labor (including the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration and the State Board of Labor Relations), the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, along with the American Arbitration Association.  He is routinely involved in representing clients in all stages of collective bargaining. 

Mark has been a participant in and presenter/trainer at numerous workshops, seminars and conferences on municipal, FOIA, education, special education, labor and employment law issues, including those sponsored by the Connecticut Bar Association, the Freedom of Information Commission and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. He is a frequent presenter at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education’s annual convention. He has written numerous articles on FOIA, employment law and school law issues in various trade journals and newsletters and is a regular columnist for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Journal. He currently conducts Legal Issues Forums for Connecticut Charter Schools with attorney Zachary D. Schurin and Special Education Legal Issues Forums with attorney Michael P. McKeon and Melinda B. Kaufmann. He is also a member of the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Contact Info

  • Hartford
    90 State House Square
    Hartford, CT 06103-3702
  • Professional Affiliations

    Connecticut Bar Association - Legislative Liaison and member of the Executive Committee, Labor and Employment Section; Education Law Section

    National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys

    Connecticut Council of School Attorneys - past president

    Oliver Ellsworth Inn of Court, former "Bencher"

    Community Involvement

    Capital City Education Alliance - Board of Directors

    The Bridge Academy – former/founding member of the Board of Directors and former Corporate Secretary

    Lawyers Collaborative for Diversity - former mentor 

    Experience

    • Successfully represented a municipality in a recent state court case brought by a former employee alleging state law disability discrimination and retaliation claims
    • Successfully represents employers at arbitration hearings concerning employee discipline (including termination)
    • Successfully represented a school district in three recent state court cases concerning the conduct of referenda, winning at the trial court level and (in one of the cases) prevailing before the Connecticut Supreme Court in a case of first impression
    • Successfully represented a regional educational service center with respect to claims of pregnancy discrimination at the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals
    • Successfully represented the interests of several school districts with regard to their obligation to pay pre-school magnet school tuition, saving Connecticut school districts several million dollars per year
    • Successfully represented charter school management organizations at the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission with respect to the applicability of the FOIA
    • Successfully represented school districts in several cases of first impression at the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding special education issues (“least restrictive environment," exhaustion of administrative remedies, and use of independent evaluations) 
    • Successfully represented a school district in a state court trial concerning retiree health insurance benefits
    • Successfully represented clients in litigation regarding the award of construction contracts and bidding procedures

    News & Insights

    Case Studies

    Bar and Court Admissions

    • Connecticut
    • U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
    • U.S. Supreme Court

    Education

    University of Connecticut School of Law, J.D., high honors, 1991

    Trinity College, B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Gamma Mu, 1988

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