Judicial District of New Haven


Criminal; Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence; Writ of Error; Whether Trial Court Lacked Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over Defendant's Motion to Correct Sentence for Summary Criminal Contempt. While appearing before the trial court in his criminal case, the defendant verbally attacked the court and exhibited physical conduct that interfered with the orderly business of the court. Consequently, the defendant was adjudged to be in contempt of court. Later that day, after the defendant met and consulted with his attorney concerning the implications of his courtroom behavior, the court held a summary contempt hearing in accordance with General Statutes 51-33. At the hearing, the defendant voluntarily, and without inquiry, admitted that his conduct had constituted contempt. The court found him guilty of summary criminal contempt and sentenced him to serve six months of incarceration. The defendant then filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence in which he argued that the trial court had imposed the summary criminal contempt sentence in an illegal manner because it had incomplete information and it did not provide him with a "cooling off period," during which counsel could elicit, investigate and prepare mitigating information before the imposition of the penalty. The trial court determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the motion to correct and dismissed the motion. The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court (123 Conn. App. 342), which affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The Appellate Court determined that because the defendant's conduct occurred in the presence of the court and the court made a summary adjudication of contempt, the sole method to review the adjudication was by writ of error. It held that because the defendant had improperly challenged the criminal contempt judgment by a motion to correct an illegal sentence, the trial court properly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the defendant's motion to correct. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's conclusion was correct.