Combs v. Gidley
ORDER (1) Denying 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus,(2) Denying 3 MOTION for Appointment of Counsel, (3) Declining to Issue a Certificate of Appealability, and (4) Denying Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on Appeal. Signed by District Judge Matthew F. Leitman. (HMon)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
KEITH WAYNE COMBS,
Case No. 17-cv-13956
Hon. Matthew F. Leitman
ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS (ECF #1), (2) DENYING MOTION FOR
APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL (ECF #3), (3) DECLINING TO ISSUE A
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (4) DENYING LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
State prisoner Keith Wayne Combs is confined at the Central Michigan
Correctional Facility in St. Louis, Michigan. On December 7, 2017, Combs filed a
pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
(See ECF #1.) In the Petition, Combs challenges his state criminal sentence. Combs
has also moved for the appointment of counsel. (See ECF #3.)
methamphetamine, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 333.7401(2)(b)(1), in the Branch County
That court sentenced him to 7 years 11 months to 20 years
imprisonment. In the Petition, Combs asserts that the state trial court improperly
scored an offense variable of the state sentencing guidelines and that as a result of
that error, he is entitled to federal habeas relief because his sentence was based upon
Promptly after the filing of a habeas petition, a district 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, it plainly appears from the face
of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to federal
habeas relief, the court must summarily dismiss the petition. See id. See also Allen
v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (noting that district courts have a duty
to “screen out” habeas petitions that lack merit on their face); McFarland v. Scott,
512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1999).
After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that
Combs is not entitled to federal habeas relief. It therefore DENIES the Petition and
Combs’ motion for the appointment of counsel. The Court further declines to issue
a certificate of appealability and denies Combs leave to proceed in forma pauperis
Combs’ conviction arises from his possession and manufacture of
methamphetamine at his girlfriend’s apartment in Coldwater, Michigan in June,
2015. Following a search of that residence, Combs was charged with multiple
On August 6, 2015, Combs pleaded guilty to one count of
delivery/manufacture of methamphetamine in exchange for (1) the dismissal of
charges of possession of methamphetamine, operating/maintaining a laboratory
involving hazardous waste, and operating/maintaining a laboratory involving
methamphetamine and (2) a promise not to be charged for additional, uncharged
acts. On September 28, 2015, the state trial court conducted a sentencing hearing
and sentenced Combs to 7 years 11 months to 20 years imprisonment. Combs was
assessed 10 points for Offense Variable 12 (contemporaneous felonious activity).
See MICH. COMP. LAWS § 777.42 (providing for a score of 10 points when there are
two or more contemporaneous felonious criminal acts against a person or three or
more contemporaneous felonious criminal acts involving other crimes).
Following his sentencing, Combs filed a motion to correct an invalid sentence
in the state trial court. In that motion, Combs asserted that the trial court improperly
scored Offense Variable 12 at 10 points because there were no other felonious acts
within 24 hours of the sentencing offense. On April 29, 2016, the trial court
conducted a hearing and denied Combs’ motion.
Combs thereafter raised his sentencing claim in a delayed application for leave
to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals. That court denied the application for
lack of merit. See People v. Combs, No. 333060 (Mich. Ct. App. July 29, 2016)
Combs then filed an application for leave to appeal with the
Michigan Supreme Court. That court denied Combs’ application in a standard order.
See People v. Combs, 894 N.W.2d 590 (Mich. 2017).
Combs filed the instant federal habeas petition on December 7, 2017. (See
The provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., govern this case because Combs
filed the Petition after the AEDPA’s effective date. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S.
320, 336 (1997). AEDPA provides that:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody
pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect
to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings
unless the adjudication of the claim –
resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in
the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. §2254(d) (1996).
Combs asserts that he is entitled to federal
habeas relief because the state
trial court erred when it scored Offense Variable 12 of the state sentencing
guidelines at 10 points. However, “[a] state court’s alleged misinterpretation of
state sentencing guidelines and crediting statutes is a matter of state concern only.”
Howard v. White, 76 Fed. App’x 52, 53 (6th Cir. 2003). And “federal habeas corpus
relief does not lie for errors of state law.” Id. (quoting See Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 67 (1991)). Combs has therefore failed to state a claim upon which federal
habeas relief may be granted. See Cheatham v. Hosey, 12 F.3d 211, 1993 WL
478854, *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 19, 1993) (departure from state sentencing guidelines is
a state law issue not cognizable on federal habeas review); McPhail v. Renico, 412
F. Supp. 2d 647, 656 (E.D. Mich. 2006) (“The petitioner’s argument that the state
court erred in scoring his sentencing guidelines [was] based solely on state law” and
therefore was “not cognizable on federal habeas corpus review”).
In an attempt to avoid this bar, Combs argues that the state court violated his
rights under the federal Due Process Clause because it based his sentence on
inaccurate information. But Combs has not stated an inaccurate-information claim,
nor has he shown that the trial court relied upon materially false or inaccurate
information when it imposed his sentence. His claim fundamentally is that the state
court made an analytical error in scoring his state sentencing guidelines, and for all
of the reasons described above, that claim is not cognizable on federal habeas
For the reasons stated, the Court concludes that Combs is not entitled to
federal habeas relief on his sentencing claim. Accordingly, the Petition (ECF #1)
is DENIED. In addition, because the Court has denied the Petition, it DENIES
Combs’ motion for appointment of counsel (ECF #3) as moot.
Before Combs may appeal the Court’s decision, a certificate of appealability
must issue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(a); FED. R. APP. P. 22(b). A certificate of
appealability may issue “only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). When a federal district
court denies relief on the merits, the substantial showing threshold is met if the
petitioner demonstrates that reasonable jurists would find the court’s assessment of
the claims debatable or wrong. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484-85 (2000).
“A petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that . . . jurists could conclude
the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.”
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003).
The Court has conducted the required review and concludes that Combs has
failed to demonstrate that jurists could find the issues presented here are adequate
to deserve encouragement to proceed further. Accordingly, the Court DECLINES
TO ISSUE Combs a certificate of appealability. The Court further DENIES Combs
leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal because an appeal could not be taken
in good faith. See FED. R. APP. P. 22(a).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Matthew F. Leitman
MATTHEW F. LEITMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: January 9, 2018
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the
parties and/or counsel of record on January 9, 2018, by electronic means and/or
s/Holly A. Monda
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