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Blanton v. Olens

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

April 25, 2017

ERIC MITCHELL BLANTON, Petitioner,
v.
SAMUEL SCOTT OLENS; THERESE A. BARNES; and STEPHEN BRIGHT, [1]Respondent.

          ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

          Petitioner Eric Mitchell Blanton (“Blanton”), who was formerly housed at the Appling County Jail in Baxley, Georgia, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) Respondents filed separate Motions to Dismiss, (docs. 10, 12, 16), and Blanton filed a Reply opposing all Motions to Dismiss, (doc. 24). For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court GRANT Respondent Carr's Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 12), DISMISS Blanton's Petition, DISMISS AS MOOT all other pending Motions in this case, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Blanton leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         BACKGROUND

         In August 2007, Blanton pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault. (Doc. 13-1, p. 5.) On August 27, 2007, the Superior Court of Toombs County sentenced Blanton to seven years for each count of aggravated assault, to run concurrently, with only eighteen months to serve and the balance of his sentence to be served on probation. (Id. at p. 4.) Blanton received credit for time served from February 5, 2006, until August 27, 2007, and was released on probation at that time to serve the remainder of his seven-year sentence. (Id.)

         On January 7, 2010, the Toombs County Superior Court revoked Blanton's probation due to a new felony offense. (Doc. 13-3, p. 3; Doc. 13-6, p. 2.) Blanton entered the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections on July 15, 2010, to serve out the remainder of his aggravated assault sentence. (Doc. 13-7, p. 3.) His projected release date was determined to be March 7, 2013. (Id. at p. 2.) However, on December 30, 2011, Blanton was released on parole. (Id.; Doc. 13-8.)[2]

         Blanton filed this Section 2241 Petition on August 8, 2016, contesting his January 7, 2010, probation revocation. (Doc. 1.) Respondents Barnes and Bright filed Motions to Dismiss asserting that they are not the proper party to be sued. (Docs. 10, 16.) Respondent Carr filed a Motion to Dismiss contending that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Blanton's Petition and that Blanton's Petition is untimely. (Doc. 12.)

         DISCUSSION

          I. Whether Blanton can Proceed Pursuant to Section 2241

         “A state prisoner seeking post-conviction relief from a federal court has but one remedy: an application for a writ of habeas corpus.” Medberry v. Crosby, 351 F.3d 1049, 1062 (11th Cir. 2003). Two different statutes govern the single post-conviction remedy of the writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2254. “The difference between the statutes lies in the breadth of the situations to which they apply.” Thomas v. Crosby, 371 F.3d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Medberry, 351 F.3d at 1059). A writ of habeas corpus may issue to a prisoner pursuant to Section 2241 if the prisoner “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). Section 2254 “applies to a subset of those to whom” Section 2241(c)(3) applies. Id. at 786. This Section applies to “‘a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court' who is ‘in custody in violation of the Constitution or law or treaties of the United States.'” Id. (quoting Section 2254(a)) (emphasis in original). While “the habeas corpus remedy is authorized by § 2241, ” it is “also subject to § 2254 and all of its attendant restrictions.” Peoples v. Chatman, 393 F.3d 1352, 1353 (11th Cir. 2004). “A state prisoner cannot evade the procedural requirements of § 2254 by filing something purporting to be a § 2241 petition.” Thomas, 371 F.3d at 787.

         Blanton contests the Toombs County Superior Court's January 2010 decision to revoke his probation. Blanton contests custody pursuant to the judgment of a Georgia court, and thus, his Petition is governed by Section 2254 and its attendant restrictions, specifically, the “in custody requirement”[3] and the exhaustion requirement. See Thomas, 371 F.3d at 787 (stating that the argument that Section 2254 does not apply where a state prisoner challenges parole decisions rather than court rulings is without merit). Accordingly, the Court must determine whether Blanton's Section 2241 Petition is barred by the “in custody” requirement and/or the statute of limitations period.

         II. Whether Blanton is “in Custody” Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2254

         To file a federal habeas corpus petition, a petitioner must be “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) (emphasis added); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). “Whether a petitioner is ‘in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court' is a jurisdictional question[.]” Diaz v. State of Fla. Fourth Judicial Circuit ex rel. Duval Cty., 683 F.3d 1261, 1263 (11th Cir. 2012). A habeas petitioner is no longer “in custody” within the meaning of Section 2254 when the challenged sentence has fully expired at the time his petition is filed. Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 238 (1968). However, the “in custody” language does not require a petitioner to be “physically confined in order to challenge his sentence on habeas corpus.” Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 491 (1989). A petitioner who has been placed on parole may still be “in custody” under his unexpired sentence. Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236 (1963); see also Duvallon v. Florida, 691 F.2d 483, 483 (11th Cir. 1982) (“In the context of habeas proceedings, the ‘in custody' requirement may also be met where a petitioner is on probation, parole or bail.”) (citations omitted). However, “a habeas petitioner [is not] ‘in custody' under a conviction when the sentence imposed for that conviction has fully expired at the time his petition is filed.” Maleng, 490 U.S. at 491 (emphasis in original).

         On December 30, 2011, Blanton was released on parole following his detention resulting from the January 2010 probation revocation. His parole period ended on March 7, 2013, which marked the end of his seven-year sentence for the aggravated assault charges. Blanton did not file this Petition until August 8, 2016, over three years after his original sentence “fully expired.” Id. While Blanton was detained at Appling County Jail at the time he filed this Petition, he was detained on separate, undisclosed charges.[4] However, Blanton's Petition does not appear to challenge anything other than his January 2010 probation revocation. In fact, Blanton makes no mention of the charges surrounding his Appling County Jail detention until his February 23, 2017, Brief in Support of Motion for Appeal Filed in the Supreme Court. (Doc. 28.)

         Thus, Blanton was not “in custody” at the time he filed his Section 2241 Petition, and this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain his claims. Accordingly, the Court should GRANT Respondent ...


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