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Woods v. Stewart

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 7, 2016

LISA WOODS, Petitioner,
ANTHONY STEWART, Warden, Respondent.



         Lisa Woods filed this petition for habeas corpus claiming that when she pled nolo contendre in 2012 to an assault charge, she did not do so voluntarily and her counsel was ineffective. But, at the time Woods filed her petition, she had already completed her sentence on the 2012 conviction. This has prompted the Warden to file a motion to dismiss Woods' habeas corpus petition on the grounds that Woods was not “in custody” for the conviction her petition attacks when she filed her petition. (R. 7.)

         Having reviewed the Warden's motion, Woods' petition, and Woods' answer to this Court's show-cause order on this very issue (which apparently has been overlooked by the Warden), the Court finds that while Woods was not “in custody” pursuant to her 2012 conviction when she filed her petition, she was “in custody” pursuant to a parole revocation and that her petition can be fairly construed as a challenge to that revocation. As such, the Court will GRANT IN PART the Warden's motion. The Court's analysis of the Warden's motion has brought to light other issues with Wood's petition, however, and so the Court will direct Woods to show cause as to why her petition should not be dismissed on other grounds.


         In June 2010, Woods pled guilty to assault with intent to commit murder and was sentenced to 23 months to 10 years in prison. (R. 4, PID 58, 66.) In April 2011, Woods was granted parole, with the parole term set to expire in April 2013. (R. 4, PID 58.)

         While still on parole, Woods was arrested and charged on July 2, 2012 with assault with a dangerous weapon. (See R. 4, PID 66, 69.) She was bound over on July 16, 2012. (R. 1, PID 22.) In October 2012, Woods pled nolo contendre to that charge. (R. 4, PID 58.) On December 4, 2012, Woods was sentenced to time served plus probation for that conviction. (Id.) Woods' probation term ended, and thus her 2012 sentence was discharged, in October 2014. MDOC Offender Tracking Information System (“OTIS”), otis2profile.aspx?mdocNumber=771835 (last visited Sept. 30, 2016).

         On December 5, 2012 (the day after Woods was sentenced on the 2012 conviction), the Michigan Department of Corrections revoked Woods' parole associated with the 2010 conviction. (See R. 4, PID 66-67.) As will be discussed in further detail below, it appears that the reason for the revocation was Woods' 2012 conviction.

         In June 2015, still incarcerated for her parole violation, Woods filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with this Court. (R. 1.)

         In May 2016, the Warden moved to dismiss Woods' petition. (R. 7.)


         According to the Warden, because Woods' petition challenges only her 2012 conviction, and because the sentence for that conviction was discharged prior to when Woods filed her petition, this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and her petition must be dismissed. (See generally R. 7.)

         The Court agrees with the Warden that if Woods' petition challenges only her 2012 conviction, this Court must dismiss her petition. The federal habeas statute reads, in relevant part, “a district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (emphasis added). The Supreme Court has interpreted this statutory provision as “requiring that the habeas petitioner be ‘in custody' under the conviction or sentence under attack at the time his petition is filed.” Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-91 (1989); see also Lackawanna Cty. Dist. Attorney v. Coss, 532 U.S. 394, 401 (2001) (“Coss is no longer serving the sentences imposed pursuant to his 1986 convictions, and therefore cannot bring a federal habeas petition directed solely at those convictions.”). It is beyond dispute that Woods' sentence for her 2012 conviction was discharged in October 2014. And it is beyond dispute that Woods did not file her federal habeas corpus petition until June 2015. Thus, if the 2012 conviction or sentence is the only one “under attack” from Woods' petition, then this Court lacks jurisdiction over the petition.

         So does Woods' petition challenge only her 2012 conviction? In a prior screening opinion, the Court thought the answer was unclear. On the one hand, it was plain that Woods' petition explicitly challenged only her 2012 conviction. The articulated grounds for relief were that her mental illness prevented her from knowingly and voluntarily entering a nolo plea to the 2012 charges and that her counsel was constitutionally ineffective in advising her of the consequences of her plea to the 2012 charges. (See R. 1, PID 6, 19.) On the other hand, in an affidavit she attached in support of her habeas corpus petition, Woods stated, “I would not have taken the [nolo contendere] plea [on the 2012 charges], as the parole violation in [the 2010 case] is based on untruths and incompetent evidence and my attorney did not explain to me what I was agreeing to in the plea deal.” (R. 1, PID 34.) She also stated, “My attorney misinformed me and stated that I would get out of jail sooner if I pled no contest to the parole violation.” (R. 1, PID 47.) As such, this Court thought that Woods could be complaining about her parole revocation, and that she was challenging her 2012 conviction because that conviction was the basis of her parole revocation. So the Court ordered Woods to “file a supplement to her petition stating the basis for her parole violation.” (R. 3, PID 54.)

         Woods has complied. Her show-cause response states that she had been incarcerated for nearly three years for her parole violation. (R. 4, PID 58.) And it provides, “In regard to the connection between the 2012 conviction and a parole violation associated with the 2010 conviction, Petitioner states she was found guilty on October 31, 2012, in relation to a new charge which also constituted a parole violation [in the 2010 case] . . . . Petitioner satisfies the § 2254's ‘in ...

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