United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER CONDITIONALLY GRANTING THE PETITION
FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
HONORABLE ARTHUR J. TARNOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Renee Houston, (“Petitioner”), incarcerated at
the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility, in
Ypsilanti, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
challenging her conviction for embezzlement of $100, 000 or
more, in violation of M.C.L.A. § 750.174(7), and
forgery, in violation of M.C.L.A. § 750.248. Petitioner
is currently serving a sentence of eight to twenty years'
imprisonment for the embezzlement conviction and two to
fourteen years' imprisonment for the forgery conviction.
raises a number of claims alleging the incorrect scoring of
her sentencing guidelines, the ineffective assistance of
trial counsel, and the ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel. For the reasons stated below, petitioner's
application for writ of habeas corpus is CONDITIONALLY
pleaded guilty to the above offenses on November 18, 2010, in
the Wayne County Circuit Court. On February 17, 2011,
petitioner was sentenced 8-20 years imprisonment for the
embezzlement conviction and 2-14 years imprisonment for the
March 3, 2011, petitioner filed a timely request for the
appointment of appellate counsel. Phillip Comorski was
appointed as appellate counsel on March 23, 2011. On August
14, 2011, appellate counsel visited petitioner in prison.
Petitioner informed appellate counsel that she wanted to
challenge her sentencing guidelines, but not the underlying
plea. Appellate counsel informed petitioner that he would
contact her at a later date by mail.
of 2013, petitioner wrote to Mr. Comorski to ask for a copy
of her Sentencing Information Report to check on the
guidelines herself, since it had already been 1 ½
years since she had last heard from Mr. Comorski. Comorski
responded by sending petitioner a letter dated May 30, 2013,
informing petitioner that he had withdrawn from her case back
in 2011 and another attorney had been appointed, telling her
that “inquiry should be directed to whomever was
appointed as substitute counsel.” Doc. # 1, Pg ID 39.
This Court notes that Comorski failed to file a brief with
his motion to withdraw that was in conformity with the
dictates of Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738
trial court granted appellate counsel's motion to
withdraw. However, the trial court never appointed substitute
appellate counsel, contrary to the representations made by
Comorski in his letter to petitioner, dated May 30,
2013.The record reflects that on November 22,
2011, the circuit court entered an order granting
Comorski's motion to withdraw as appellate counsel, but
scratched out the portion of Comorski's presented order
allowing for new appointed counsel. People v.
Houston, No. 10-6776-01-FH (Wayne County Circuit Court,
November 22, 2011), Doc. # 6-1, Pg ID 151.
August 14, 2013, petitioner filed a Halbert
Motion for the appointment of appellate counsel,
which was denied in a form order. People v. Houston,
No. 10-006776-01-FH (Wayne County Circuit Court, November 18,
September 5, 2013, petitioner filed her original habeas
petition for a writ of habeas corpus. On October 16, 2013,
this Court held the petition in abeyance so that petitioner
could return to the state courts to exhaust her claims.
October 31, 2013, petitioner filed a motion for relief from
judgment, which was denied. People v. Houston, No.
10-6776-01-FH (Wayne County Circuit Court, March 3, 2014),
Doc. # 10-6, Pg ID 387. The Michigan appellate courts denied
petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Houston, No.
150403 (Mich.Ct.App. Sept. 19, 2014); lv. den. 498
Mich. 852; 864 N.W.2d 564 (2015).
16, 2015, petitioner filed an amended petition for writ of
habeas corpus, in which she sought relief on the same grounds
that she raised in her original habeas petition:
I. Sentence is invalid due to an upward departure from the
sentencing guidelines range due to improper and incorrect PRV
and OV scoring.
II. Ineffective assistance of counsel.
III. Ineffective assistance of appellate attorney.
Court reopened the petition to the Court's docket on
September 25, 2015.