Habeas Corpus Restructuring Focus Group Meeting Minutes September 25, 2008 Attendees

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Habeas Corpus Restructuring Focus Group

Meeting Minutes

September 25, 2008
Attendees: Michelle Cruz, Office of the Victim Advocate; Merit Lajoie, Office of the Victim Advocate; Hakima Bey-Coon, Office of the Victim Advocate; Samuel Rieger, Melanie Ilene Rieger Memorial Foundation; Danielle Rea, Survivors of Homicide; Nancy Kushins, CONNSACS; Deborah Del Prete Sullivan, Office of Chief Public Defender; Judith Borman, Office of Chief Public Defender; Adele Patterson, Office of Chief Public Defender; Gerard Eisenman, Bridgeport State’s Attorney’s Office; Linda Howe, New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office; Judith Rossi, Office of the Chief State’s Attorney; JoAnne Sulik, Office of the Chief State’s Attorney

The meeting was called to order by Michelle S. Cruz.

  1. Welcome and introduction of attendees.

  2. Review and Discussion

  • Minutes: The focus group made corrections to the minutes of the August 28, 2008, specifically that the Office of Chief Public Defender adamantly opposes a statute of limitations in habeas corpus cases that arise out of a conviction.

  • Post-Conviction Remedies 50 State Survey: Michelle asked representatives from the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office whether there is any particular state that we should look at as a guide. JoAnne Sulik from the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney created the summary. She will send hard copies of the statutes to participants. There was a suggestion by the Chief Public Defenders Office that the group should look at the scope of representation for assignment of counsel as to how broad the provisions are for Public Defender Offices of those states. Others commented that would be unnecessary.

There was a discussion in response to Ms. Cruz’s question about what types of cases the Public Defender Office is appointed in vs. the cases that Inmate Legal Assistance handles. Public Defenders can be appointed in a case that challenges a conviction or the length of confinement. It was explained that the Public Defender’s Office does not represent inmates in conditions of confinement cases which may be filed by Inmate Legal Assistance. There is no right to assistance of counsel in preparing a habeas corpus petition to be filed. The Public Defender’s Office explained the screening process once the pro se petition is filed. The petition is screened by the judge. If the petition filed does not state a claim, the court can decline to issue the writ. This is an appealable decision but since people do not have counsel at that point in time, a person would usually re-file instead, trying to state the claims properly, because they do not meet the time deadlines necessary to appeal.

  • Data from Juvenile Branch regarding pending habeas petitions and data from DOC regarding inmates serving more than five years: The focus group reviewed and discussed the data from the Judicial Branch regarding pending habeas petitions and data from DOC regarding the number of inmates serving a sentence of more than five years. Michelle Cruz commented that a Statute of Limitations benefits both sides; the state and the offender because it would encourage them to bring the claims sooner rather than later. Joanne Sulik commented that it becomes difficult to investigate and litigate these habeas cases when the underlying conviction has occurred so long ago. Adele Patterson acknowledged that the passage of time may already serve as an incentive for people to file petitions early. In addition, it may be expected that creating a statute of limitations will increase the number of habeas corpus petitions filed. This is because, as several attendees mentioned, defendants would presumably be notified at sentencing of their right to file a habeas petition and the deadline therefor, which will encourage the filing of place-holder petitions in order to preserve the right to ever have access to habeas corpus relief. As a result, more resources would be required, including more attorneys. Deborah Del Prete Sullivan stated that the legislature passed legislation which extended the time periods for the retention of court records, in certain cases to 20 years, so that if a claim is brought later, court documents are available.

There was a discussion about the staffing levels of the Appellate Bureau of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office and the Bridgeport State’s Attorney’s Office who handle the bulk of the habeas cases. Gerard Eisenman distinguished the Law Revision Committee’s proposal for the time limitation with judicial discretion from what our focus group is discussing, which is a statutory Statute of Limitations with an exception. Michelle Cruz agreed that the Office of the Victim Advocate is interested in a statutory limit with exceptions. Adele Patterson raised the concern that the discussion about whether and when to file for habeas corpus is made with full knowledge of the law and access to the relevant fact. She indicated concern that people with, for example mental illness, may not have the ability to file within time limitations. Johnson vs. Commissioner, 218 Conn. 403 (1991), where CT adopted the cause and prejudice standard, the court explained that the higher standard of proof on petitioners is considered appropriate expressly because there is no statute of limitations in habeas corpus cases. Jo Anne Sulik stated that she does not agree with Ms. Patterson’s description of the law.

Judith Rossi commented that if we have a “hatch-door” exception that would take care of the type of matter that the public defenders are concerned with. The Public Defender’s Office again pointed out that most petitioners do not have counsel to assert such exceptions before judicial screening, and Deborah Del Prete Sullivan stated that the members of the group need to understand the process for current habeas cases as there is more information out there that we should obtain before we go ahead with a proposal for a statute of limitation. She stated that the Law Revision Commission studied this issue for a long time. Judith Rossi commented that there is a history from the Law Revision Committee, because it wasn’t that long ago. She suggested that perhaps, we can look at it.

  • Data from DOC regarding inmates’ legal services: There was a discussion about data from DOC regarding inmates’ legal services. Michelle Cruz commented that if there is an issue with inmates’ legal services, the public defenders should take that up. She stated that the sufficiency of legal services will be an issue whether or not there is a statute of limitation. Adele Patterson clarified that those are confinement cases when Inmate Legal Assistant helps an inmate.

  1. Focus Group Action Plan

    • OVA will look at the Public Defender’s Office in our neighboring states. (Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey)

  1. Look at the system. Determine what population they serve, e.g. state and federal cases.

  • The Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA), State’s Attorney’s Office will look at the 30 state survey to see which has the top 3 statute of limitations.

  • OVA will email the minutes of this meeting by Monday of the week prior to the meeting.

  • OVA will send a letter to Judicial requesting information regarding their screening process for habeas petitions.

  • The Office of the Chief State’s Attorney will obtain data for Connecticut habeas cases where the petitioner challenges their conviction.

  • Obtain a hard copy of the statutes from the 30 state survey.

  1. Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for October 30, 2008 from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. OVA will send out a reminder notice.

  1. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned.


Habeas Corpus Re-structuring Focus Group Action Plan

Pending Habeas Cases by Reason (as of 9/19/08)

Inmates Servicing More than 5 Year Sentences (as of 9/24/08)

Memo regarding Information Concerning Legal Services Available to Inmates

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