NELSON ARRIAGA v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18659
Judicial District of Tolland
Habeas; Subject Matter Jurisdiction; Whether Habeas Petition was Properly Dismissed for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Because the Self-Represented Petitioner Failed to Allege in the Petition that he was in Custody at the Time he Filed the Petition. The self-represented petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging his attorney rendered ineffective assistance in failing to advise him properly of the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. After concluding that the petitioner had been discharged from his sentence and was no longer in custody at the time that he filed the petition, the habeas court, sua sponte, dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The petitioner appealed to the Appellate Court, arguing that the habeas court improperly found that it lacked jurisdiction over his petition and, in the alternative, that he was denied due process because the court failed to appoint counsel to review his petition prior to dismissing it. In particular, he claimed that he was on probation for the underlying charges at the time he filed his petition and that, because he represented himself before the habeas court, the rules of practice should be construed liberally and not require him to allege that he was in custody or on probation when he filed the petition. He also asked the Appellate Court to take judicial notice of his criminal record, which he claimed demonstrated that he was on probation at the time he filed the petition. In affirming the habeas court's judgment, the Appellate Court (120 Conn. App. 258) noted that, while self-represented litigants are allowed some latitude, they are not excused from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. It further stated that a habeas court does not have the discretion to look beyond the pleadings and trial evidence to decide claims not raised and that nothing in the record before the habeas court suggested that the petitioner was in custody or on probation. The Appellate Court also declined to take judicial notice of the petitioner's underlying criminal record, ruling that he had the burden of alleging facts in the petition that clearly demonstrated that he was in custody. It stated that taking judicial notice of the underlying criminal records would essentially require it or the habeas court to conduct an independent investigation prior to dismissing a petition. Finally, the Appellate Court deemed it unnecessary to consider the petitioner's due process claim in light of its conclusion that the habeas court had properly dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the judgment of dismissal.