Coleman v. Commissioner of Correction
In the 2010 decision of Kaddah v. Commissioner of Correction, the Connecticut Supreme Court re-iterated that "[t]o obtain relief through a habeas petition, the petitioner must plead facts that, if proven, establish that the petitioner is entitled to relief." William Coleman's conviction of various crimes, including sexual assault in a spousal relationship, was affirmed on appeal. Coleman began a hunger strike. The commissioner of correction sought a permanent injunction allowing the force-feeding of Coleman intravenously and via a nasogastric tube. Coleman asserted special defenses including that his force-feeding constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment to the federal constitution. A permanent injunction was granted and upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Coleman filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that conditions of his confinement were abusive and constituted "torture." The habeas court denied Coleman's request for counsel and sua sponte, summarily dismissed the petition pursuant to Practice Book §23-29(2). Coleman was granted certification to appeal but denied counsel. He appealed pro se. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court properly dismissed the petition without a hearing. The petition included a list of allegations including that: "I am isolated in a suicide cell," "I am not suicidal," "[l]ights on 16 - 24 hours per day," "[d]enial of hygiene," "[f]orce fed," "[r]estrained (though compliant)" and that that the medical and mental health treatment programs were "abusive," "torture" and "self-serving." Coleman sought "to be free of further abuse and torture." The Appellate Court found that the petition did not allege material facts in the context of one or more causes of action but contained conclusory statements and opinions. The petition failed to state a cause of action and was functionally devoid of any legally cognizable claim that would entitle the petitioner to a hearing. The court did not err in failing to appoint counsel. Coleman himself noted that his petition challenged his conditions of confinement. The petition did not challenge the underlying judgment of conviction or focus upon release from confinement. The allegations, although raised by an individual incarcerated subject to a criminal conviction, did not arise from a criminal matter. Coleman was not constitutionally or statutorily entitled to counsel.