State v. Bradley

Decision Date24 December 2019
Docket NumberAC 42061, (AC 42062)
Citation223 A.3d 62,195 Conn.App. 36
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. William Hyde BRADLEY

Naomi T. Fetterman, with whom was Aaron J. Romano, Bloomfield, for the appellant (defendant).

James M. Ralls, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Gailor, state's attorney, and Russell Zentner, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

DiPentima, C.J., and Keller and Sheldon, Js.

SHELDON, J.

In this consolidated appeal, the defendant, William Hyde Bradley, appeals from judgments that were rendered against him by the trial court following his entry of conditional pleas of nolo contendere to charges of sale of a controlled substance in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (b) and violation of probation in violation of General Statutes § 53a-32. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court erred in denying his motions to dismiss those charges, wherein he argued, inter alia, that his prosecution under Connecticut's statutes criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana violated his rights under the equal protection clause of the United States constitution because such statutes were enacted for the illicit purpose of discriminating against persons of African-American and Mexican descent. We affirm the judgments of the court, concluding that it did not err in denying the defendant's motions to dismiss. We do so, however, on the alternative ground raised by the state that the defendant, as a nonmember of either group of persons against whom he claims that the challenged statutes were enacted to discriminate, lacked standing to bring such an equal protection claim. Accordingly, we do not reach the merits of the defendant's equal protection claim on this appeal.

The following procedural history and facts, as stipulated to by the parties, are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. On January 13, 2017, while the defendant was serving a sentence of probation in connection with a prior conviction of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, probation officers conducting a home visit at his residence discovered approximately thirty ounces of marijuana in his possession. On the basis of that discovery, the state charged the defendant, in two separate informations, as follows: in docket number M09M-CR17-0210994-S, with one count each of possession of one-half ounce or more of marijuana within 1500 feet of a school in violation of General Statutes § 21a-279 (b) and sale of a controlled substance in violation of § 21a-277 (b) ; and in docket number MMX-CR14-0204977-T, with violation of probation in violation of § 53a-32.

The defendant moved to dismiss the charges by filing two parallel motions to dismiss, one in each docket number. He argued in those motions, inter alia, that his prosecution under Connecticut's statutes criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana violated (1) his right to equal protection under the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution because such statutes were enacted for the illicit purpose of discriminating against persons of African-American and Mexican descent; and (2) his right to equal protection under article first, § 20, of the constitution of Connecticut because the enforcement of such statutes had a disparate impact on persons of African-American descent. The state filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the defendant's motions to dismiss, to which the defendant responded by filing a reply. Following a hearing on the motions, the court ordered the parties to file supplemental memoranda addressing whether the defendant, whom the court had found to be Caucasian, had standing to bring an equal protection challenge to statutes on the ground that they had been enacted for the purpose of discriminating against members of racial or ethnic minority groups of which he was not a member. After the parties filed their supplemental memoranda, the court heard oral argument. Thereafter, in a memorandum of decision dated June 1, 2018, the court agreed with the defendant that, regardless of his race or ethnicity, he had standing to bring an equal protection challenge to the statutes under which he was charged because there was a genuine likelihood that he, as a person so charged, would be convicted under those statutes. The court went on to rule, however, that the defendant could not prevail on the merits of his equal protection claim because even if he could prove that enforcement of the challenged statutes had a disparate impact on persons of African-American or Mexican descent, he could not prove that the legislature's true purpose in enacting those statutes was to discriminate against the members of either such group. Thereafter, upon conducting an analysis under State v. Geisler , 222 Conn. 672, 685, 610 A.2d 1225 (1992), the court also rejected the defendant's additional claim that his prosecution under the challenged statutes violated his rights under the equal protection clause of the Connecticut constitution, which he had based on the theory that that provision affords greater protection than its federal counterpart because violation of that provision, unlike the federal equal protection clause, can be established by proof of disparate impact alone.1 Rejecting that argument, the court denied the defendant's motions to dismiss in their entirety.

On August 28, 2018, the defendant entered pleas of nolo contendere to charges of sale of a controlled substance and violation of probation, which were based on his alleged possession of, with intent to sell, the marijuana that the probation officers had found in his residence. The defendant's pleas, which were entered pursuant to General Statutes § 54-94a, were conditioned on preserving his right to appeal from his resulting convictions based on the trial court's prior denial of his motions to dismiss. The court thereafter sentenced the defendant as follows: on his conviction of sale of a controlled substance, he was sentenced to an unconditional discharge; and on his violation of probation, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to a term of five and one-half years of incarceration, execution suspended, and two years of probation. These appeals, later consolidated by order of this court, followed.2

On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly denied his motions to dismiss. He argues here, as he did before the trial court, that Connecticut's statutes criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana were enacted for the illicit purpose of discriminating against persons of African-American and Mexican descent, and thus that his prosecution under those statutes violated the equal protection clause of the United States constitution. The defendant does not claim, however, that the court erred in denying his alternative equal protection claim under the Connecticut constitution.

In his brief, the defendant initially traces the history of cannabis cultivation from ancient times through the time of its criminalization in Connecticut in the 1930s. He then describes and documents what he claims to have been the pervasive atmosphere in this country in the 1930s of discrimination against racial and ethnic minority groups whose members were known or believed to use marijuana. Against this background, he argues that the federal marijuana prohibition that was enacted in that time frame, for the illicit purpose of discriminating against African-Americans and Mexicans, influenced several states, including Connecticut, to enact their own state laws criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana for the same discriminatory purpose. The state disputes the defendant's contention that Connecticut's statutes criminalizing the possession and sale of marijuana were enacted for the purpose of discriminating against racial and ethnic minorities. As a threshold matter, however, it argues, as it did before the trial court, that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the defendant's equal protection claim because, as a Caucasian, he lacked standing to vindicate the equal protection rights of members of racial or ethnic minority groups to which he did not belong. The defendant counters by arguing, as he did successfully before the trial court, that regardless of his race or ethnicity, he had standing to raise his constitutional claim because, as a person charged under such allegedly unconstitutional statutes, he personally faced a genuine risk of being convicted thereunder if he were not permitted to prosecute his motions to dismiss.

Because a party's lack of standing to bring a claim implicates the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction over that claim, we must first address this jurisdictional issue. See New Hartford v. Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority , 291 Conn. 511, 518, 970 A.2d 583 (2009). We begin by reviewing some well established principles of standing. "Generally, standing is inherently intertwined with a court's subject matter jurisdiction.... We have long held that because [a] determination regarding a trial court's subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, our review is plenary.... In addition, because standing implicates the court's subject matter jurisdiction, the issue of standing is not subject to waiver and may be raised at any time." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Brito , 170 Conn. App. 269, 285, 154 A.3d 535, cert. denied, 324 Conn. 925, 155 A.3d 755 (2017).

"Standing is the legal right to set judicial machinery in motion. One cannot rightfully invoke the jurisdiction of the court unless he [or she] has, in an individual or representative capacity, some real interest in the cause of action, or a legal or equitable right, title or interest in the subject matter of the controversy.... When standing is put in issue, the question is whether the person whose standing is challenged is a proper party to request an adjudication of the...

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4 cases
  • State v. Bradley
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • October 5, 2021
    ...protection claim in this appeal.The Appellate Court's decision sets forth the facts and procedural history; see State v. Bradley , 195 Conn. App. 36, 38–41, 223 A.3d 62 (2019) ; which we summarize in relevant part. In 2017, while the defendant was serving a sentence of probation for a prior......
  • State v. Schimanski
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • November 3, 2020
    ...defendant lacks standing to raise her equal protection claim.The defendant argues that she has standing pursuant to State v. Bradley , 195 Conn. App. 36, 223 A.3d 62 (2019), cert. granted, 334 Conn. 925, 223 A.3d 379 (2020). The defendant relies on language in Bradley stating that "[our Sup......
  • Starboard Fairfield Dev., LLC v. Gremp
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • December 24, 2019
    ... ... Barry , 283 Conn. 338, 351, 927 A.2d 304 (2007). Although the defendants baldly state that the court's finding that they acted intentionally and with bad faith 195 Conn.App. 33 to interfere with the Newfield property sale was ... ...
  • State v. Bradley
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 18, 2020
    ...M. Ralls, assistant state's attorney, in opposition.The defendant's petition for certification to appeal from the Appellate Court, 195 Conn.App. 36, 223 A.3d 62 (2019), is granted, limited to the following issues:"1. Did the Appellate Court correctly conclude that the defendant did not have......

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