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Roberts v. State

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

January 19, 2017




         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

         Factual Allegations

         Petitioner is presently incarcerated at the Oxford Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin. Petitioner is serving a sentence of 210 months imprisonment imposed by this Court following his guilty plea to a charge of distribution of 28 grams or more of cocaine base. United States v. Roberts, No. 1:10-cr-300 (J., ECF No. 68.) Petitioner is not challenging the constitutionality of that conviction or sentence in this proceeding; rather, he is challenging the constitutionality of his 2002 Mason County Circuit Court conviction for possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams of a controlled substance in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401(2)(a)(iv). (J., ECF No. 1-3, PageID.127.) Petitioner pleaded guilty to that offense on September 3, 2002. (Id.) On October 8, 2002, the court sentenced Petitioner to the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections for a term of imprisonment of 1year and 1 day to 20 years. (Id.) Petitioner's 2002 state court conviction was used to enhance his sentence in the federal case. United States v. Roberts, No. 1:10-cr-300 (Mins. of Sentencing, ECF No. 67.)

         Petitioner never sought leave to appeal his 2002 conviction. He commenced his challenge to that conviction in the state courts in 2012, only after the impact of the conviction on his federal sentence became apparent. (Mot. for Relief from J., ECF No. 1-2, PageID.26-40.) The Mason County Circuit Court denied Petitioner's requests for relief initially and upon reconsideration. (Orders, ECF No. 1-2, PageID.43-45, 50-53.) The state appellate courts refused to provide relief. See People v. Roberts, No. 325545 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 8, 2015) (Order, ECF No. 1-3, PageID.129); People v. Roberts, No. 151660 (Mich. Jun. 22, 2016) (Order, ECF No. 1-3, PageID.130.) Petitioner filed his habeas petition on December 22, 2016.

         Critically, at the time Petitioner filed his petition, he was no longer in custody pursuant to the state court judgment he challenges. According to the Final Presentence Report in Petitioner's federal criminal case, he was paroled on the state sentence July 5, 2003, and discharged from parole July 5, 2005. Case No. 1:10-cr-300, ECF No. 59 at ¶ 51, PageId.205-06. This is consistent with the absence of any information about the old conviction on the Michigan OTIS system.[1] Petitioner makes no argument to the contrary.


         The federal habeas statute gives this Court jurisdiction to entertain petitions for habeas relief only from persons who are “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The Supreme Court has clarified “that the habeas petitioner must be ‘in custody' under the conviction or sentence under attack at the time his petition is filed.” Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-491 (1989) (citing Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S.234, 238 (1968).

         Petitioner implicitly acknowledges that he is not “in custody.” He claims, instead, that he suffers collateral consequences, in the form of his federal sentence enhancement, that permit this Court to exercise jurisdiction. Petitioner is incorrect. Collateral consequences, such as a subsequent sentence enhancement, may be sufficient to prevent a case from becoming moot upon discharge;[2] but, they are not sufficient to create jurisdiction if the discharge precedes the filing of the petition. Maleng, 490 U.S. at 492 (“[O]nce the sentence imposed for a conviction has completely expired, the collateral consequences of that conviction are not themselves sufficient to render an individual ‘in custody' for the purposes of a habeas attack upon it.”)

         Creative petitioners have attempted to overcome the jurisdictional limit by claiming that their constitutional challenges relate to the more recent enhanced sentence. For example, in Petitioner's case, he might claim that the Court has jurisdiction because he is “in custody” on the federal conviction, effectively seeking to convert his § 2254 petition into a § 2255 petition. The Sixth Circuit rejected that approach in Steverson v. Summers, 258 F.3d 520 (6th Cir. 2001) relying upon Daniels v. United States, 532 U.S. 374 (2001) (Court rejected the argument in the context of a § 2255 petition), and Lackawanna Cty. Dist. Attorney v. Coss, 532 U.S. 394 (2001) (Court rejected the argument in the context of a § 2254 petition). The Coss Court summed up its holding as follows:

[W]e hold that once a state conviction is no longer open to direct or collateral attack in its own right because the defendant failed to pursue those remedies while they were available (or because the defendant did so unsuccessfully), the conviction may be regarded as conclusively valid. See Daniels, post, at 382. If that conviction is later used to enhance a criminal sentence, the defendant generally may not challenge the enhanced sentence though a petition under § 2254 [or § 2255, per Daniels, ] on the ground that the prior conviction was unconstitutionally obtained.

Coss, 532 U.S. at 403-404 (parallel citation omitted).[3] Petitioner's state conviction is no longer open to direct or collateral attack. His conviction is conclusively valid and appropriately relied upon in subsequent sentences. Moreover, the fact that Petitioner has been discharged means he is no longer in custody. This Court, therefore, does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the petition.


         In light of the foregoing, the Court will summarily dismiss Petitioner's application pursuant to Rule 4 because the ...

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