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Dinham v. Commissioner of Correction

Appellate Court of Connecticut

July 2, 2019

Trevelle DINHAM
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

         Argued February 5, 2019

Page 508

         Appeal from the Hon. Edward J. Mullarkey, judge trial referee

          Vishal K. Garg, West Hartford,, for the appellant (petitioner).

         Zenobia G. Graham-Days, 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.

Page 509

          [191 Conn.App. 86] The petitioner, Trevelle Dinham, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court dismissing his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the petitioner argues that the court improperly dismissed his claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for the failure to state a claim upon which habeas relief can be granted. Specifically, the petitioner argues that the court improperly dismissed his claims that (1) he [191 Conn.App. 87] relied on "governmental representations" that he would receive risk reduction credit when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm, (2) the respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, misconstrued and misapplied several statutes pertaining to the petitioner receiving a parole suitability hearing, earning risk reduction credit in the future, and applying risk reduction credit toward the advancement of the petitioner’s parole eligibility date, and (3) the respondent’s customary practices have created a vested liberty interest in receiving a parole suitability hearing, earning future risk reduction credits, and applying risk reduction credits to advance his parole eligibility date. 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. On April 2, 2012, the petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in violation of General Statutes § 53a-55a, which he committed on or about September 24, 1999,[1] and for which he was sentenced to twenty-eight years of imprisonment. Thereafter, the then self-represented petitioner commenced this action by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On November 15, 2017, the petitioner, after obtaining counsel, filed an eighteen count amended habeas petition. On March 19, 2018, the court, sua sponte, dismissed the amended petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for the failure to state a claim upon which habeas relief may be granted.[2] See [191 Conn.App. 88] Practice Book § 23-29.[3] Instead of addressing the petitioner’s claims individually, the court broadly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the habeas petition and that the petition had failed to state a claim upon which habeas relief can be granted.[4] The court granted the petitioner’s

Page 510

petition for certification to appeal.[5] The petitioner timely filed the present appeal, challenging the dismissal of ten of his claims. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

          Before addressing the petitioner’s individual claims, we first set forth the standards of review and relevant legal principles applicable to the petitioner’s appeal. "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." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Pentland v. Commissioner of Correction, 176 Conn.App. 779, 784-85, 169 A.3d 851, cert. denied, [191 Conn.App. 89] 327 Conn. 978, 174 A.3d 800 (2017). "[I]n order to invoke successfully the jurisdiction of the habeas court, a petitioner must allege an interest sufficient to give rise to habeas relief .... We have long held that because [a] determination regarding a trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, our review is plenary." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Perez v. Commissioner of Correction, 326 Conn. 357, 368, 163 A.3d 597 (2017). "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." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Boria v. Commissioner of Correction, 186 Conn.App. 332, 342, 199 A.3d 1127 (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, supra, 326 Conn. at 368, 163 A.3d 597. "In reviewing whether a petition states a claim for habeas relief, we accept its allegations as true." Coleman v. Commissioner of Correction,137 Conn.App. 51, 55, 46 A.3d 1050 (2012). For ease of discussion, we next provide a brief summary of the relevant laws pertaining to the petitioner’s ability to receive a ...


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