FRANCIS ANDERSON v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18808
Judicial District of Tolland
Habeas Corpus; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Conflict of Interest; Whether the Petitioner was Deprived of his Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel Where he and a Codefendant were Represented by Different Attorneys from the Same Public Defender's Office. The petitioner was charged with several crimes and was represented at trial by an attorney from the Hartford public defender's office. He pleaded guilty to some of the charges and was convicted. Subsequently, the petitioner brought this habeas action, alleging that he was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel due to a conflict of interest. At the habeas trial, trial counsel testified that the petitioner's codefendant, who had implicated him in some of the crimes, was represented by another public defender from the Hartford office. Counsel also testified that neither attorney shared information about their cases and that her representation of the petitioner was not affected by her coworker's representation of the codefendant. The court found that the petitioner's trial counsel had an actual conflict of interest under rule 1.7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct because of the concurrent representation of the codefendant by a public defender in the same office. In so finding, the court imputed a conflict of interest to the petitioner's counsel under rule 1.10, based on its finding that both lawyers, for all intents and purposes, worked for the same law firm. The court granted the petition based on the ethical violation without finding that the conflict had an adverse effect on counsel's representation. The Appellate Court (127 Conn. App. 538) reversed the habeas court's judgment. The court first determined that the Rules of Professional Conduct do not require the imputation of conflicts of interest between associated government lawyers on the basis that they are members of the same firm. Having found that the habeas court incorrectly imputed a conflict of interest based on a misapplication of the rules, the court next determined that counsel was not burdened by an actual conflict of interest in her representation of her client. The court noted that, even assuming that there was an actual conflict, the ethical violation, standing alone without any evidence of an adverse impact, could not constitute a deprivation of the sixth amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court granted certification to decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the petitioner was not deprived of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel when both he and a codefendant were represented by different attorneys from the same public defender's office.