Huertas v. Commissioner of Correction
In the companion case of Gonzalez v. Commissioner of Correction, the Supreme Court concluded "that the habeas petitioner had a sixth amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel at the arraignment stage in which proceedings pertaining to the setting of bond and credit for presentence confinement occurred because it is clear that potential substantial prejudice to the petitioner's right to liberty inhered to the arraignment proceedings and the petitioner's counsel had the ability to help avoid that prejudice by requesting that the bond on [previous arrests] be raised at the arraignment on [a subsequent] arrest." Jourdan Huertas petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The parties stipulated that if counsel had requested a bond increase on prior charges on a certain date, Huertas would have received an additional 17 days of presentence confinement credit and there was no strategic reason for counsel not to have made such request. The habeas court granted the petition and awarded Heurtas 17 days of credit, finding the facts indistinguishable from those in the 2010 Appellate Court majority opinion in Gonzalez v. Commissioner of Correction. The respondent commissioner of correction appealed, challenging the habeas court's conclusion that Heurtas had a sixth amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel for a matter pertaining to presentence confinement credit and arguing that the calculation of such credit is not a critical stage of the proceedings. Based on Gonzalez, the majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The facts were indistinguishable, despite a minor difference from the stipulation and that counsel's failure to request the bond increase occurred at a plea hearing and sentencing and not the arraignment. U.S. Supreme Court precedent recognizes that entering a guilty plea is a critical stage in the proceedings and a right to counsel exists at sentencing, with the 2001 decision in Glover v. U.S. remarking "any…[additional] jail time has sixth amendment significance." The Gonzalez analysis applied and the habeas court properly determined that the petitioner was entitled to effective assistance of counsel at the plea hearing and sentencing. Counsel's failure to request the bond increase constituted deficient performance and such performance prejudiced the petitioner, exposing him to additional jail time without credit. As in Gonzalez, Justice Palmer concurred in the result and Justice Zarella dissented.