United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se petitioner Courtney Green, a prisoner currently
confined at the Osborn Correctional Institution
("Osborn") in Somers, Connecticut, has filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, challenging the Commissioner of Correction's
policy change that reduced the amount of risk reduction
earned credits ("RRECs") that he could earn. Doc. 1
("Petition"). For the reasons that follow, the
Court construes the writ as alleging a violation of the
ex post facto clause. Id. at 9. By this
Ruling, the Court resolves the Petitioner's request for
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Connecticut Appellate Court summarized the underlying facts
of the case as follows:
On May 11, 2016, the petitioner, representing himself, filed
a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Therein, the petitioner alleged that on or about August 28,
2011, the respondent, the Commissioner of Correction
(commissioner), implemented the Risk Reduction Earned Credit
(RREC) program pursuant to his authority under General
Statutes § 18-98e. He stated that the "RREC allowed
. . . [him] to be awarded time at the discretion of the
commissioner . . . at the rate of five days per month for
participation in programs or activities [and] good conduct
and obedience to departmental rules . . . ." Although
the petitioner admitted in his petition that the risk
reduction credits were awarded at the commissioner's
discretion, he also alleged that he signed an "agreement
with department staff" that entitles him to receive five
risk reduction credits per month.
The petitioner further alleged that on February 1, 2016, the
commissioner sent a memo to inmates informing them that he
was changing the way he awarded risk reduction credits
pursuant to a new policy outlined in Department of
Correction, Administrative Directive 4.2A. The directive
provided that, thereafter, the amount of credits an inmate
would be eligible to receive each month would be based on the
inmate's risk classification-a level four inmate could
earn up to three days of credit per month, a level two or
three inmate could earn up to four days, and a level one
inmate could earn up to five days. Moreover, a level four
inmate could apply to have reinstated the additional two
credits per month that he was earning previously.
The petitioner further alleged that he continues to be in
compliance with the aforementioned "agreement" and,
despite the change in policy, should therefore "be
grandfathered [in] to receive five days RREC per month,
pursuant to . . . § 18-98e." He thus requested the
habeas court's intervention and that it "reinstate
the RREC of five days per month that [he] signed a contract
for . . . ."
On May 19, 2016, the habeas court, Oliver, J., disposed of
the petition sua sponte pursuant to Practice Book §
23-24 (a) (1)3 because the court lacked subject matter
jurisdiction over it, citing Petaway v. Commissioner of
Correction, 160 Conn.App. 727, 125 A.3d 1053 (2015),
cert. dismissed, 324 Conn. 912, 153 A.3d 1288
(2017). The court did not hold a hearing prior to reaching
Green v. Comm'r of Correction, 194 A.3d 857,
859-60 (Conn. App. Ct. 2018) (footnotes omitted).
appeal, Petitioner claimed that the habeas court
"improperly disposed of his petition because it (1)
incorrectly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction and (2)
failed to conduct a hearing on that issue prior to disposing
of the petition." Id. at 859. The Connecticut
Appellate Court affirmed the habeas court's decision,
agreeing that he was not entitled to a hearing and that the
habeas court did not have jurisdiction over his petition.
Id. at 862. In support of its ruling on the latter
point, the Appellate Court had found that Petitioner did not
show the required interest sufficient to give rise to habeas
relief because he does not have a constitutionally protected
liberty interest in RRECs. Id. at 863, 866. It also
dismissed Petitioner's argument that he was contractually
entitled to the five days' rate of RRECs because there
was no basis to conclude that there was a binding contract
nor that the commissioner had the statutory authority to
strip away his discretion in administrating the RREC program.
Id. at 866. The Connecticut Supreme Court denied his
petition for certification. Green v. Comm'r of
Correction, 195 A.3d 383 (Conn. 2018).
action is now before this Court. For the reasons that follow,
the Court construes the Petition as alleging a violation of
the ex post facto clause. Additionally, Petitioner
asserts that the contract entitled him to the five days'
rate of RRECs. Doc. 1 at 9; Doc. 1-1 at 3. Petitioner seeks
to be released from custody or to be allowed to earn five
days' worth of RRECs again. Doc. 1-1 at 3.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), "a
district court shall entertain an application for a writ of
habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to
the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is
in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States." See Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) ("Section
2254(a) permits a federal court to entertain only those
applications alleging that a person is in state custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States." (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Because federal habeas relief may only be obtained for a
violation of federal law, it "does not lie for errors of
state law." Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 67 (1991) (citation omitted).
as the Second Circuit stated in Lewis v. Connecticut
Commissioner of Correction, 790 F.3d 109 (2d Cir. 2015):
[F]ederal courts will not review questions of federal law
presented in a habeas petition when the state court's
decision rests upon a state-law ground that “is
independent of the federal question and adequate to support
the judgment.” Cone v. Bell, 556 U.S. 449, 465
(2009) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722,
790 F.3d at 117.
determining whether a state conviction violates federal law,
Section 2254(d) "imposes a highly deferential standard
for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that
state-court decisions be given the benefit of the
doubt." Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773
(2010) (citations and internal quotations omitted). This
Court cannot grant a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
filed by a person in state custody with regard to any claim
that was rejected on the merits by the state court unless the
adjudication of the claim in state court either:
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented