Judicial District of Tolland


      Habeas Corpus; Whether Petitioner has Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel Appointed Under § 51-196 (a) to Represent him in a “Habeas on a Habeas.”  The petitioner was convicted of murder, attempted murder and unlawful restraint in the first degree, and his convictions were affirmed on appeal.  The petitioner unsuccessfully sought habeas relief based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at his criminal trial and on appeal.  He filed a second habeas petition alleging the ineffective assistance of counsel in his first habeas action.  The habeas court denied the second petition, and the petitioner then filed the present habeas action alleging that counsel appointed to represent him in his second habeas action provided ineffective assistance.  The habeas court dismissed the petition, finding that it failed to state a claim upon which habeas relief could be granted.  The habeas court based its conclusion on its interpretation of General Statutes § 51-296 (a), which requires a court to appoint a public defender to represent an indigent petitioner “in any habeas corpus proceeding arising from a criminal matter.”  The habeas court noted that, in Lozada v. Warden, 223 Conn. 834 (1992), the Supreme Court held that the § 51-296 (a) right to habeas counsel for indigent petitioners includes the right to the effective assistance of appointed counsel and that the proper vehicle to challenge the competence of appointed habeas counsel is a “habeas on a habeas”—a habeas action claiming the ineffective assistance of habeas counsel.  The court also noted that, in Sinchak v. Commissioner of Correction, 126 Conn. App. 684 (2011), the Appellate Court held that § 51-296 (a) gives an indigent petitioner a right to appointed counsel in a habeas on a habeas.  The habeas court nonetheless concluded that the petitioner here was entitled to no relief because § 51-296 (a) does not authorize claims for habeas relief predicated on claims that counsel appointed to represent a petitioner in a habeas on a habeas rendered ineffective assistance in that action.  The habeas court noted that its holding was supported by precedent from other jurisdictions and by considerations of finality and judicial economy.  The petitioner appeals, claiming that the habeas court improperly found that he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that § 51-296 (a) unambiguously provides a right to the effective assistance of counsel in a habeas on a habeas.