IVAN DIAZ v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 19527
Judicial District of Tolland
Habeas Corpus; Whether Habeas Court Properly Dismissed Petition Sua Sponte on Ground of Procedural Default. The petitioner, who had previously filed three habeas actions, brought this habeas action claiming that he had received ineffective assistance from his trial and appellate counsel and from counsel who had represented him in the previous habeas actions. When, at the start of the habeas trial, the petitioner withdrew his claims regarding prior habeas counsel, the habeas court dismissed the petition on its own motion, finding that it lacked jurisdiction because the petitioner had “deliberately bypassed”—or procedurally defaulted on—his claims. The habeas court reasoned that once the petitioner withdrew the claims against prior habeas counsel, there remained only claims that he previously had raised in his third habeas petition and that, as the petitioner had withdrawn that third petition, he was barred from raising those same claims in any subsequent habeas action. The Appellate Court (157 Conn. App. 701), reversed the habeas court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings on the habeas petition. The Appellate Court first determined that the habeas court had improperly found that the ostensible procedural default implicated its subject matter jurisdiction over the habeas action. The Appellate Court also ruled that the habeas court had improperly raised the issue of procedural default sua sponte. The court noted that, as the respondent had waived any claim of procedural default by failing to plead it as a defense to the habeas petition, the habeas court should not have raised the issue on its own initiative and where the issue did not implicate the court’s jurisdiction. The respondent appeals, and the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the habeas court erred in dismissing the habeas petition sua sponte on the ground of procedural default.