Respondents have an opportunity to contend a habeas corpus claim. One way they might do this is through res judicata, also known as a claim preclusion. Learn more here.
The respondent, in its return, may contend that a claim or issue in the amended petition has already gotten decided and that the principle of res judicata (claim preclusion). Or, they can contend the principle of collateral estoppel (issue preclusion) bars re-litigation of the claim or issue. Thus, the claim or issue is subject to dismissal under Practice Book §§ 23 -22(3), 23-29(3)(4)(5), 23-30(b), 23 -34 and/or 23- 37. “The related doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppels are based on the public policy that a party should not be able to relitigate a matter that it already has had a fair and full opportunity to litigate.” In re Ross, 272 Conn. 653, 661 (2005).
The res judicata principle holds that a former judgment on a claim, if rendered on the merits, constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action [between the same parties] on the same claim…To determine whether two claims are the same for purposes of res judicata, we compare the pleadings and judgment in the first action with the complaint in the subsequent action…The judicial doctrine of res judicata gets based on the public policy that a party should not relitigate a matter which it already has had an opportunity to litigate…[W]here a party has fully and fairly litigated his claims, he may get barred from future actions on matters not raised in the prior proceeding. (Internal quotation marks omitted; citations omitted) Thorpe v. Commissioner, 73 Conn. App. 773, 777 (2002).
See also Bridges v. Commissioner, 97 Conn. App. 119, 122 (“The rule of claim preclusion prevents reassertion of the same claim regardless of what additional or different evidence or legal theories might be advanced in support of it.” (Internal quotation marks omitted; citation omitted)), cert. denied, 280 Conn. 921 (2006); see generally McCarthy v. Warden, 213 Conn. 289 (1989). The life or liberty interests at stake in habeas proceedings counsel against extending the res judicata principle to claims that could have gotten raised in earlier proceedings. See Johnson v. Commissioner, 288 Conn. 53, 67 (2008).
Deprivation of Liberty
(“[I]n the habeas context, in the interest of ensuring ‘that no one is deprived of liberty in violation of his or her constitutional rights…the application of the doctrine of res judicata…[is limited] to claims that actually have been raised and litigated in an earlier proceeding.’” (Citation omitted)), overruled in part on other grounds, State v. Elson, 311 Conn. 726 (2014); see also Thorpe v. Commissioner, 73 Conn. App. at 778 n.7 (“Although the doctrine of res judicata in its fullest sense bars claims that could have been raised in a prior proceeding, such an application in the habeas corpus context would be unduly harsh”).
Hence, when the respondent raises res judicata as a defense, habeas counsel must review the trial record. Also, they have to review the appellate record. They do this to determine the precise nature of any previous claim and decision. See, e.g. Jefferson v. Commissioner, 99 Conn. App. 321, 323-26 (habeas claim that special parole sentence got illegal barred by res judicata because petitioner litigated the claim in the trial court on a motion to correct an illegal sentence), cert. denied, 281 Conn. 928 (2007).
Bridges v. Commissioner, 97 Conn. App. at 121 (habeas claim that petitioner suffered ineffective assistance of counsel on Alford plea barred. This happened by res judicata because petitioner moved to withdraw the plea in the trial court. They did this on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel); Thorpe, 73 Conn. App. at 778 (habeas claim that introduction of rifle in evidence at criminal trial violated the constitution not barred by res judicata because on direct appeal petitioner contended the introduction violated the rules of evidence). If, after such review, the claims do not match, habeas counsel should reply by denying the allegation and explaining the difference in the claims. See Practice Book §§ 23-31 and 29-35(c).
Also, while the Connecticut Supreme Court has held that the principle of res judicata applies to habeas proceedings, see In re Ross, 272 Conn. at 669, the Court has also explained that the principle’s application should be tempered when a constitutional violation is asserted and life or liberty is at stake. See In re Ross, 272 Conn. at 662; see also James L. v. Commissioner, 245 Conn. 132, 142 n.11 (1998)
(“[T]he doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel…are ordinarily inapplicable in the habeas corpus context. Conventional notions of finality of litigation have no place where life or liberty is at stake and the infringement of constitutional rights is alleged…The inapplicability of res judicata, then, is inherent in the very role and function of the writ.” (Internal quotation marks omitted; citation omitted)); Thorpe, 73 Conn. App. at 779 n.7. Thus, in the reply, counsel should also assert the general inapplicability of the defense in habeas proceedings.