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Jack v. Chapman

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

November 18, 2019




         Petitioner William Glenn Jack presently is in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections serving a prison sentence for third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising three issues, all relating to his sentence. The first and third — that the sentencing court incorrectly scored certain offense variables and a prior record variable under the state's sentencing guideline regime — raise issues of state law that a federal court does not deal with under section 2254. He also alleges that his attorney was ineffective because he did not object to the perceived guideline scoring errors. That certainly is a federal claim that can be raised in a section 2254 petition, but it does not help Jack because the state appellate courts have rejected those sentencing arguments, and Jack's attorney cannot be faulted for not raising them. Therefore, the petition will be denied summarily.


         Jack pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the Kalamazoo County, Michigan circuit court to third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520D(1)(b), and was sentenced as a third habitual offender to a prison term of six years, six months to thirty years. He did not file a direct appeal, but he did file a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment, which was denied. People v. Jack, No. 2015-1734-FH (Kalamazoo Cty.Cir.Ct., Apr. 13, 2018) (ECF No. 1, PageID.39 - 46). The Michigan appellate courts also denied relief. People v. Jack, No. 344726 (Mich.Ct.App. Oct 18, 2018); leave denied, 929 N.W.2d 343 (Mich. 2019) (Table).

         Jack then filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus asserting the following issues:

I. Whether the trial court improperly scored Offense Variables 10, 12, and 13, resulting in the imposition of an invalid sentence and depriving the petitioner of his right to a fair trial, due process, and equal protection under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
II. Whether the petitioner's counsel provided ineffective assistance under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to object to the allegedly improper scoring of the Sentence Guidelines offense variables.
III. Whether the trial court erroneously scored the petitioner 50 points for Prior Record Variable 2, where one of the felonies counted was pled down to a misdemeanor and his sentence was allegedly based on inaccurate information.

         The warden has not been ordered to answer the petition.


         A federal court may issue a writ of habeas corpus at the behest of a state prisoner “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). After a petition for habeas corpus is filed, 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 also 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If, after preliminary consideration, the Court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, the Court must dismiss the petition summarily. McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856; Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1999); Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (holding that the district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). No response to a habeas petition is necessary if the petition is frivolous, obviously lacks merit, or if the necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself without considering a response from the State. See Allen, 424 F.2d at 141; Robinson v. Jackson, 366 F.Supp.2d 524, 525 (E.D. Mich. 2005).

         To qualify for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the petitioner must show that the state court decision on a federal issue “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, ” or amounted to “an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2); Franklin v. Francis, 144 F.3d 429, 433 (6th Cir. 1998). The analysis of a petitioner's claim is limited to consideration of “the law as it was ‘clearly established' by [Supreme Court] precedents at the time of the state court's decision, ” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003). Under that review standard, mere error by the state court does not justify issuance of the writ; rather, the state court must have applied federal law in a way that is “objectively unreasonable.” Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000)).


         Jack contends that the state court incorrectly calculated his sentencing guideline range under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. He is not entitled to relief on this ground. State courts are the final arbiters of state law. See Bradshaw v. Richey,546 U.S. 74, 76 (2005); Sanford v. Yukins,288 F.3d 855, 860 (6th Cir. 2002). And “federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law.” Kissner v. Palmer, 826 F.3d 898, 902 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991)). Therefore, claims that challenge a state court's sentencing decision under state law normally are not cognizable on federal habeas review, unless the habeas petitioner can show that the sentence imposed exceeded the statutory limits or is wholly unauthorized by law. See Vliet v. Renico, 193 F.Supp.2d 1010, ...

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