Pope v. Butler et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge William M Acker, Jr on 9/24/12. (KGE, )
2012 Sep-24 PM 02:04
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MELVIN E. POPE,
FREDDIE BUTLER and the ATTORNEY
GENERAL OF THE STATE OF ALABAMA
Civil Action Number:
This is a habeas corpus case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by an Alabama state
prisoner, Melvin Edward Pope (the “petitioner” or “Pope”), who is confined at the Hamilton Aged
& Infirmed correctional facility in Hamilton, Alabama. In his pro se petition, Pope attacks his 1981
guilty-plea conviction for robbery, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. (See Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (the “Petition” or “Pet.”), Doc.1 1). In
particular, he maintains that the state trial court “did not have jurisdiction” to convict or sentence
him, on theories (1) that his “plea of guilty was unlawfully induced,” presumably in violation of the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Pet. at p. 8); (2) that his Sixth Amendment
constitutional right to appointed counsel was violated because his attorney present at the plea
hearing was not licensed to practice law in Alabama (id. at pp. 8-10); and (3) that the attorneys that
represented him throughout were ineffective in numerous respects, also in violation of the Sixth
Amendment (id. at pp. 11-12). He also contends that he is entitled to a new plea hearing and/or
sentencing hearing based on the fact that he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder
References to “Doc(s).___” are to the documents as numbered by the clerk of court in the court’s record of the case.
(“PTSD”). (Id. at p. 13). On August 8, 2012, the magistrate judge entered a report recommending
that the action is due to be dismissed as barred by the one-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d). (Doc. 3). Pope has filed a “Motion to Expand and/or Supplement [the] Record.” (Doc.
4). The court has granted that motion and advised that it will consider the attached materials and
treat the motion as raising objections to the magistrate judge’s report. (Unnumbered margin docket
entry dated August 22, 2012).
Pope does not dispute that his § 2254 petition is untimely on its face by well more than a
decade. Rather, he objects to the magistrate’s recommendation by arguing that his claims
demonstrate an absence of jurisdiction in the State trial court and that the statute of limitations, as
a procedural defense, cannot bar such “jurisdictional” claims. At the outset, the court would
recognize that any characterization by the Alabama courts regarding whether any of Pope’s claims
is considered “jurisdictional” under state law is immaterial to whether such claims are subject to the
one-year statute of limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) when asserted in a § 2254 habeas
petition. The applicability of the limitations period to Pope’s claims for federal habeas relief is
purely a question of federal law. While Pope argues that his claim challenging the validity of his
conviction and sentence presents a “jurisdictional” claim that is not governed by the one-year
limitations period of § 2244(d)(1), “neither the statute nor federal case law makes such an exception
for alleged jurisdictional issues arising under state law.” Brown v. Patterson, 2012 WL 3264896,
*3 (M.D. Ala. 2012); see also Owens v. Mitchem, 2012 WL 4009335, *3 n. 3 (N.D. Ala. 2012)
(“There is no exception under AEDPA’s statute of limitations for a § 2254 claim that the state court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction.”); Nettles v. Secretary, Dep’t of Corr., 2012 1309360, *2 (M.D.
Fla. 2012); Griffin v. Padula, 518 F. Supp. 2d 671, 677 (D.S.C. 2007); Ahmed v. Hooks, 2007 WL
128787, *1 (S.D. Ala. 2007); Beaulieu v. Minnesota, 583 F.3d 570, 574 (8th Cir. 2009) (“Whether
Minnesota had jurisdiction of [the petitioner’s] claim was a matter for the Minnesota courts to
address. [The petitioner] misapprehends the nature of federal habeas review, and we hold that his
subject matter jurisdiction claim does not preclude a finding of procedural default.” (citation and
footnote omitted)); cf. Williams v. United States, 383 Fed. App’x 927, 929-30 (11th Cir. 2010)
(holding that the one-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f) applies to claims
challenging the trial court’s jurisdiction brought by a federal prisoner in a motion to vacate under
28 U.S.C. § 2255).
Further, this court can grant habeas relief only based upon violations of federal, not state,
law. See Swarthout v. Cook, 131 S. Ct. 859, 861 (2011). And as far as federal law is concerned,
Pope’s petition does not raise any constitutional claim that is “jurisdictional” such that it might be
immune from procedural defenses. It is beyond question that procedural defenses, including the
statute of limitations, may bar federal habeas relief on constitutional claims alleging that counsel
rendered ineffective assistance, see Daniels v. United States, 532 U.S. 374, 384 (2001); see also,
e.g., Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408 (2005), or that a guilty plea was invalid. See Daniels,
supra; Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 621 (1998); United States v. Montano, 398 F.3d
1276, 1279-80 (11th Cir. 2005). Likewise, even a claim alleging that a conviction was entirely
uncounseled in violation of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 F.3d 335 (1963), does not amount to a true
jurisdictional issue that may be raised at any time. Howard v. United States, 374 F.3d 1068, 107172 (11th Cir. 2004). Pope’s attempts to evade the statute of limitations are thus unavailing.
Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court file,
including the findings and recommendation and the objections filed by the petitioner, the court is
of the opinion that the magistrate judge’s findings are due to be and are hereby ADOPTED and his
recommendation is ACCEPTED. To the extent that the petitioner’s “Motion to Expand and/or
Supplement [the] Record” is construed as interposing objections to the report and recommendation,
such objections are due to be and hereby are OVERRULED. As a result, Pope’s § 2254 petition for
federal habeas relief is due to be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as untimely under § 2244(d)(1).
A separate final judgment will be entered.
As to the foregoing it is SO ORDERED this the 24th day of September , 2012.
WILLIAM M. ACKER, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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