Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the habeas court dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by Petitioner alleging that a 2013 amendment to Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-125a repealing a provision advancing certain inmates’ parole eligibility dates by earned risk reduction credit violated the ex post facto clause of the federal constitution. The habeas court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Petitioner suffered no increase in punishment that would constitute a violation of the ex post facto clause. The Supreme Court affirmed for the reasons set forth in Perez v. Commissioner of Correction, __ A.3d __ (Conn. 2017), holding that the habeas court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Petitioner’s ex post facto claim. View "James E. v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s conclusion that Defendant failed to establish that he had a subjective expectation of privacy in a residence he had leased to a third party. Defendant was charged with drug related offenses after the police found marijuana plants during a search at the residence. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence gathered during the search and his subsequent incriminating statements to the police as the fruits of a warrantless and illegal search. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant then entered a conditional plea of nolo contendere. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts, holding (1) Defendant lacked standing to challenge the warrantless search of the property because Defendant lacked a subjective expectation of privacy therein; and (2) the police possessed a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop Defendant and later had probable cause to arrest him. View "State v. Houghtaling" on Justia Law

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The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed defendant's conviction for breach of the peace in the second degree in connection with a customer dispute with a supermarket employee. The court held that the conviction constituted a violation of the First Amendment to the United States constitution because defendant's speech, unaccompanied by threats, did not fall within the narrow category of unprotected fighting words. In this case, the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the employee was likely to have retaliated with violence in response to defendant's words under the circumstances in which they were uttered. Accordingly, the court remanded for a judgment of acquittal. View "State v. Baccala" on Justia Law

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Genovese v. Gallo Wine Merchants, Inc., 628 A.2d 946 (Conn. 1993), which held that, under Con. Gen. Stat. 31-51bb, a factual determination made in a final and binding arbitration conducted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement does not have a preclusive effect in a subsequent action claiming a constitutional or statutory violation, is still good law. Plaintiff brought the present action alleging that her termination was in retaliation for bringing a previous action against Defendant alleging sex discrimination and for engaging in protected speech. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the factual underpinnings of the claims had been decided against her by the board of mediation in arbitration proceedings. The trial court denied the motion, citing Genovese. Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, thus declining Defendant’s invitation to overrule Genovese. View "Spiotti v. Wolcott" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of arson in the second degree, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal mischief in the first degree, and one count of conspiracy to commit burglary in the first degree. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant waived his unpreserved claim of instructional error under the rule in State v. Kitchens, 10 A.3d 942 (2011); (2) the prosecutor’s remarks informing certain prospective jurors that reasonable doubt is something less than 100 percent certainty did not adversely affect the fairness of Defendant’s trial; and (3) Defendant’s assertion that the trial court improperly prevented defense counsel from cross-examining key state witnesses about certain topics was unfounded. View "State v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals improperly concluded that a thirty-two delay in the execution of an arrest warrant, where the warrant was executed after the expiration of the limitation period, was reasonable as a matter of law such that the state was under no obligation to present evidence demonstrating that the delay was excusable. Defendant was arrested thirty-two days after the issuance of a warrant for his arrest and thirteen days after the expiration of the applicable five-year statute of limitations for his offense. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charge on the ground that the prosecution was barred by the statute of limitations because the delay in the execution of the warrant was unreasonable. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Appellate Court erred in affirming the trial court’s decision denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to State v. Crawford, A.2d 1034 (1987). View "State v. Swebilius" on Justia Law

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Principally at issue in this case was defense counsel's obligation to investigate and present mitigating evidence that could reduce a defendant's culpability when the defendant has directed counsel not to present such evidence and has refused to aid in the presentation of such evidence. The Connecticut Supreme Court held that a client's resolute, unambiguous instruction not to present mitigating evidence, if made knowingly and voluntarily, can preclude a showing of prejudice from counsel's failure to investigate mitigating evidence. The court held, largely for the reasons set forth by the habeas court, that this standard was met in the present case. Furthermore, the habeas court properly concluded that petitioner had not established a basis for relief on any of his claims challenging his judgment of conviction, and, in light of intervening changes in the law, petitioner's claims challenging the penalty phase and resulting sentence of death have been rendered moot. View "Breton v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was found guilty in 2002 of the 1975 murder of his neighbor. The habeas court granted Petitioner’s petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus, concluding that Petitioner’s criminal trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective on three grounds. The Supreme Court reversed the habeas court’s judgment, holding (1) the habeas court erred in concluding that Petitioner’s trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective; (2) Petitioner’s alternative grounds for affirming the habeas court’s judgment were unavailing; and (3) the habeas court did not err in rejecting Petitioner’s claim that counsel had a conflict of interest in representing him. Remanded. View "Skakel v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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In this summary process action, the trial court relied on the “spirit” of certain federal disability laws in support of an equitable defense to the eviction of Defendant, a tenant who kept an “emotional support dog” in her federally subsidized rental apartment despite a clause restricting pets that was included in her lease. Plaintiff appealed from the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this appeal was not rendered moot when Plaintiff commenced an ancillary summary process action against Defendant, the filing of which had the effect of affirmatively reinstating Defendant’s tenancy; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by relying on the spirit of the federal regulations and by applying the doctrine of equitable nonforfeiture to support its equitable decision in favor of Defendant. View "Presidential Village, LLC v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Defendant confessed to committing a robbery and assault at a grocery store in a signed, sworn statement he made to the police. Defendant moved to suppress his statements to the police. The trial court denied the motion. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of multiple counts relating to the robbery of the grocery store. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the detectives failed to provide him with Miranda warnings while he was in custody and prior to asking him about the robbery. Defendant claimed that the initial questioning and the subsequent questioning after he was provided with a Miranda warning was a single, continuous interrogation that rendered the Miranda warning ineffective. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress because, under the facts of this case, there was a sufficient separation between the initial questioning and the subsequent interrogation to render the Miranda warnings effective. View "State v. Donald" on Justia Law