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Anderson v. Comm'r of Corr.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

July 21, 2015

FRANCIS ANDERSON
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

Argued April 16, 2015

Amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Tolland where the court, Kwak, J., rendered judgment dismissing the petition; thereafter, the court denied the petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court; subsequently, the court, Kwak, J., issued an articulation of its decision.

SYLLABUS

The petitioner, who had been convicted of assaulting two correction officers, sought a writ of habeas corpus. Prior to the commencement of the evidentiary portion of the trial, the habeas court indicated its willingness to grant the request by the petitioner's counsel to have the petitioner's handcuffs removed, absent any objection by the transporting correction officers. One of the correction officers opposed the removal of the petitioner's handcuffs on the ground that the petitioner had assaulted staff on a number of prior occasions. As a result, the court denied the petitioner's request. Subsequently, the petitioner stated that he had an issue with the correction officer who had opposed the request, and that he wanted to return to the correction facility. As the petitioner was exiting the courtroom, the court stated that if he left, his petition would be dismissed with prejudice. After the petitioner exited the courtroom, the petitioner's counsel asked the court to consider the petitioner's alleged psychological impairments and consequently dismiss the petition without prejudice, but the court refused. Thereafter, the court denied the petition for certification to appeal and the petitioner appealed to this court, claiming that the habeas court abused its discretion in denying the petition for certification to appeal because the dismissal with prejudice of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus was not a proportionate sanction relative to his conduct in leaving the courtroom. Held that the habeas court abused its discretion by denying the petition for certification to appeal and, under the circumstances of this case, by dismissing with prejudice the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, as that sanction was too severe: the petitioner did not express a deliberate, contumacious, or unwarranted disregard for the court's authority, as evidenced by the fact that it was unclear whether the petitioner, who had certain psychological impairments, fully understood the consequences of his departure from the courtroom, and the habeas court still had the ability to communicate with the petitioner due to his incarcerated status, but did not make a concerted effort to ensure that the petitioner was personally apprised of the consequences of his actions and did not provide his counsel with an opportunity to meet with the petitioner to discuss his actions and the court's warning; furthermore, this was not a case wherein the sanction of dismissal with prejudice was the only option available to vindicate the legitimate interests of the respondent Commissioner of Correction and the habeas court, as the court's options included calling a brief recess to provide counsel with an opportunity to advise the petitioner and potentially convince him to return to the courtroom, inquiring whether counsel could proceed in the petitioner's absence, rescheduling the habeas trial, or considering counsel's request to dismiss the petition without prejudice.

James P. Sexton, assigned counsel, with whom was Michael S. Taylor, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

Mitchell S. Brody, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Matthew Gedansky, state's attorney, and Andrew Reed Durham, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

Sheldon, Keller and Mullins, Js. KELLER, J. In this opinion, the other judges concurred.

OPINION

KELLER, J.

Page 1238

[158 Conn.App. 587] The petitioner, Francis Anderson, appeals following the habeas court's denial of his petition for certification to appeal from the judgment dismissing with prejudice his amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner claims that the court erred by denying his petition for certification to appeal and dismissing his amended petition with prejudice because (1) an order that the petitioner had violated, which precipitated the court's dismissal of his amended petition with prejudice, was not reasonably clear; (2) the court's dismissal of his amended petition with prejudice was not proportionate to the petitioner's violation of the order; and (3) the court committed plain error by failing to comply with Practice Book § 23-40 and General Statutes § 52-470. We agree with the petitioner's second claim and reverse the judgment of the court.[1]

[158 Conn.App. 588] The following facts and procedural history are relevant here. On March 3,

Page 1239

2011, the petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting a peace officer in violation of General Statutes § 53a-167c.[2] The trial court, Hon. Terence A. Sullivan, judge trial referee, sentenced the petitioner to a total effective sentence of five years incarceration, to be served consecutively to any previous sentence he was serving.

On February 19, 2013, the petitioner filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus.[3] On June 3, 2013, prior to the evidentiary portion of the petitioner's habeas trial, the habeas court, Kwak, J., asked whether the parties wished to discuss any ...


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