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Hargrove v. Superior Court of Judicial Dist. of Tolland at Rockville

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 2, 2008

Cornelius HARGROVE
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF the JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF TOLLAND AT ROCKVILLE.

Argued Sept. 22, 2008.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Justine F. Miller, special public defender, for the plaintiff in error.

Denise B. Smoker, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Jonathan C. Benedict, state's attorney, and Frederick W. Fawcett, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the defendant in error.

BISHOP, ROBINSON and MIHALAKOS, Js.

ROBINSON, J.

[111 Conn.App. 453] The plaintiff in error, Cornelius Hargrove, brought a writ of error contesting the Superior Court judgment summarily finding that he had committed criminal contempt during his habeas trial and sentencing him to six months imprisonment.[1] The plaintiff [111 Conn.App. 454] in error claims that (1) the habeas judge should have disqualified herself from sitting in judgment on the criminal contempt and (2) the habeas court violated his constitutional and statutory rights by summarily finding him in contempt, in absentia, without affording him the opportunity to respond to the charge. We affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this court's review. In 1991, the plaintiff in error was arrested and charged with assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(1) and carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35. As a result of this conviction, he was sentenced to a total effective term of twenty-five years in prison. That conviction was affirmed by this court in State v. Hargrove, 33 Conn.App. 942, 638 A.2d 1098 (1994).

On July 20, 2004, the plaintiff in error filed a second petition for a writ of habeas corpus.[2] The court appointed attorney Justine F. Miller to represent the plaintiff in error, and, on his behalf, she filed a second amended petition alleging six counts.[3] At the outset of the habeas trial, which commenced on December 11, 2006, the court dismissed counts one through five on the ground that those counts were litigated previously in the plaintiff in error's first habeas petition. During the presentation of his case, the plaintiff in error became [111 Conn.App. 455] increasingly frustrated with his attorney and the manner in which she was representing him. During the morning session, the plaintiff in error asked to address the court, and his request was granted. At that time, he attempted to reargue the court's prior decision to dismiss counts one through five. He also complained that his attorney was not asking the proper questions. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff in error interrupted the court proceedings to request a luncheon recess.

When the trial resumed after the recess, the plaintiff in error's mounting frustration

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with the court proceeding culminated in his request to the court to proceed pro se. The court fully canvassed the plaintiff in error on the implications of pro se representation. In response to the court's inquiry as to whether he fully understood these implications, the plaintiff in error stated: " I heard you the first time." Thereafter, the court granted the plaintiff in error's request for a short recess to organize his file.

When the court reconvened, the plaintiff in error resumed questioning of the witness on the stand, his prior counsel, Dante Gallucci. The counsel for the respondent, the commissioner of correction, objected to his line of questioning, and the court sustained the objection. The plaintiff in error and the court then engaged in an escalating colloquy regarding the court's decision to sustain the objection. This colloquy ...


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