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Jordan v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 11, 2019

BRYAN JORDAN
v.
COMMISSIONEROF CORRECTION

          Argued February 5

         Procedural History

         Amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Tolland, where the court, Hon. Edward J. Mullarkey, judge trial referee, sua sponte, rendered judgment dismissing the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, from which the petitioner, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Arthur L. Ledford, special public defender, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Steven R. Strom, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was George Jepsen, former attorney general, for the appellee (respondent).

          Keller, Elgo and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

          HARPER, J.

         The petitioner, Bryan Jordan, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court dismissing his petition for a writ of habeas corpus for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for the failure to state a claim upon which habeas relief can be granted. The petitioner's sole claim on appeal is that the habeas court improperly dismissed his claim that the respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, entered into, and subsequently breached, a purported contract with the petitioner to award him risk reduction credit in exchange for his adherence to his offender accountability plan. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the resolution of this appeal. The petitioner was found guilty, following a jury trial, of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55a (a) and carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit in violation of General Statutes § 29-35 (a). The charges stemmed from a shooting death that occurred on September 19, 2005. See State v. Jordan, 117 Conn.App. 160, 161, 978 A.2d 150, cert. denied, 294 Conn. 904, 982 A.2d 648 (2009). On April 27, 2007, the petitioner was sentenced to a total effective sentence of forty-five years of incarceration.[1] The petitioner's conviction was upheld on direct appeal by this court. See id.

         Thereafter, the then self-represented petitioner initiated this action by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On November 6, 2017, the petitioner, after obtaining counsel, filed the operative amended petition alleging, inter alia, breach of contract. Specifically, the petitioner's breach of contract claim alleges that the respondent, by virtue of having the petitioner sign his offender accountability plan, agreed to award the petitioner five days of risk reduction credit per month in exchange for the petitioner's adherence to the offender accountability plan. Further, he alleges that, once No. 15-216 of the 2015 Public Acts (P.A. 15-216) came into effect, which rendered the petitioner unable to earn further risk reduction credit, the respondent nonetheless breached the parties' agreement by failing to award further risk reduction credit.

         On March 19, 2018, the court, sua sponte, dismissed the amended petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which habeas relief could be granted.[2] See Practice Book § 23-29.[3] The court in its memorandum of decision did not address each of the petitioner's counts but, instead, broadly concluded that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the petitioner's claims and that the petitioner had failed to state a claim on which habeas relief could be granted. The court subsequently granted the petition for certification to appeal, which was timely filed in this court. Additional facts will beset forth as necessary.

         We begin our analysis with the applicable standards of review and relevant legal principles. ‘‘Our Supreme Court has long held that because [a] determination regarding a trial court's subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, our review is plenary. . . . Moreover, [i]t is a fundamental rule that a court may raise and review the issue of subject matter jurisdiction at any time. . . . Subject matter jurisdiction involves the authority of the court to adjudicate the type of controversy presented by the action before it. . . . [A] court lacks discretion to consider the merits of a case over which it is without jurisdiction. . . . The subject matter jurisdiction requirement may not be waived by any party, and also may be raised by a party, or by the court sua sponte, at any stage of the proceedings, including on appeal.

         ‘‘With respect to the habeas court's jurisdiction, [t]he scope of relief available through a petition for habeas corpus is limited. In order to invoke the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction in a habeas action, a petitioner must allege that he is illegally confined or has been deprived of his liberty. . . . In other words, a petitioner must allege an interest sufficient to give rise to habeas relief. . . . In order to . . . qualify as a constitutionally protected liberty [interest] . . . the interest must be one that is assured either by statute, judicial decree, or regulation.'' (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Green v. Commissioner of Correction, 184 Conn.App. 76, 85, 194 A.3d 857, cert. denied, 330 Conn. 933, 195 A.3d 383 (2018).

         ‘‘Likewise, [w]hether a habeas court properly dismissed a petition pursuant to Practice Book § 23-29 (2), on the ground that it fails to state a claim upon which habeas corpus relief can be granted, presents a question of law over which our review is plenary.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Perez v. Commissioner of Correction, 326 Conn 357, 368, 163 A.3d 597 (2017). ‘‘It is well settled that [t]he petition for a writ of habeas corpus is essentially a pleading and, as such, it should conform generally to a complaint in a civil action.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Pentland v. Commissioner of Correction, 176 Conn.App. 779, 786, 169 A.3d 851, cert. denied, 327 Conn. 978, 174 A.3d 800 (2017). ‘‘In reviewing whether a petitioner states a claim for habeas relief, ...


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