Jones #221006 v. MacLaren
OPINION; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CURTIS LEWIS JONES,
Case No. 2:15-cv-18
Honorable Gordon J. Quist
This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, 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 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be
summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court
has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4
includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual
allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir.
1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must
be dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim.
Petitioner Curtis Lewis Jones, a state prisoner currently confined at the Kinross
Correctional Facility (KCF), filed this pro se habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Petitioner states that he was convicted of second degree murder and felony firearm on December
5, 1991, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life with the possibility of parole. Petitioner is not
challenging his conviction, but instead is challenging a February 2, 2014, parole denial, which
Petitioner claims was improperly based on inaccurate and inadmissable information.
Petitioner claims that the February 2, 2014, denial of parole violated his due process
rights. To establish a procedural due process violation, a Petitioner must prove that (1) he was
deprived of a protected liberty or property interest, and (2) such deprivation occurred without the
requisite due process of law. Club Italia Soccer & Sports Org., Inc. v. Charter Twp. of Shelby, 470
F.3d 286, 296 (6th Cir. 2006); see also Swihart v. Wilkinson, 209 F. App’x 456, 458 (6th Cir. 2006).
Petitioner fails to raise a claim of constitutional magnitude because he has no liberty interest in
being released on parole. There is no constitutional or inherent right to be conditionally released
before the expiration of a prison sentence. Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex,
442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979). Although a state may establish a parole system, it has no duty to do so; thus,
the presence of a parole system by itself does not give rise to a constitutionally protected liberty
interest in parole release. Id. at 7, 11; Bd. of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 373 (1987). Rather,
a liberty interest is present only if state law entitles an inmate to release on parole. Inmates of Orient
Corr. Inst. v. Ohio State Adult Parole Auth., 929 F.2d 233, 235 (6th Cir. 1991).
In Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1164-65 (6th Cir. 1994) (en banc), the Sixth
Circuit, noting “the broad powers of the Michigan authorities to deny parole,” held that the
Michigan system does not create a liberty interest in parole. The Sixth Circuit reiterated the
continuing validity of Sweeton in Crump v. Lafler, 657 F.3d 393, 404 (6th Cir. 2011). In Crump,
the court held that the adoption of specific parole guidelines since Sweeton does not lead to the
conclusion that parole release is mandated upon reaching a high probability of parole. See id.; see
also Carnes v. Engler, 76 F. App’x 79, 80 (6th Cir. 2003). In addition, the Sixth Circuit has rejected
the argument that the Due Process Clause is implicated when changes to parole procedures and
practices have resulted in incarcerations that exceed the subjective expectation of the sentencing
judge. See Foster v. Booker, 595 F.3d 353, 369 (6th Cir. 2010). Finally, the Michigan Supreme
Court has recognized that there exists no liberty interest in parole under the Michigan system.
Glover v. Mich. Parole Bd., 596 N.W.2d 598, 603-04 (Mich. 1999).
Because Petitioner is serving a life sentence, he has no reasonable expectation of
liberty. The discretionary parole system in Michigan holds out “no more than a mere hope that the
benefit will be obtained.” Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 11. The Michigan Parole Board’s failure or
refusal to consider Petitioner for parole, therefore, implicates no federal right. In the absence of a
liberty interest, Petitioner fails to state a claim for a violation of his procedural due process rights.
In light of the foregoing, the Court will summarily dismiss Petitioner’s application
pursuant to Rule 4 because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim.
Certificate of Appealability
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), the Court must determine whether a certificate of
appealability should be granted. A certificate should issue if Petitioner has demonstrated a
“substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). This Court’s
dismissal of Petitioner’s action under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases is a determination
that the habeas action, on its face, lacks sufficient merit to warrant service. It would be highly
unlikely for this Court to grant a certificate, thus indicating to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that
an issue merits review, when the Court has already determined that the action is so lacking in merit
that service is not warranted. See Love v. Butler, 952 F.2d 10 (1st Cir. 1991) (it is “somewhat
anomalous” for the court to summarily dismiss under Rule 4 and grant a certificate); Hendricks v.
Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1990) (requiring reversal where court summarily dismissed under
Rule 4 but granted certificate); Dory v. Comm’r of Corr. of New York, 865 F.2d 44, 46 (2d Cir.
1989) (it was “intrinsically contradictory” to grant a certificate when habeas action does not warrant
service under Rule 4); Williams v. Kullman, 722 F.2d 1048, 1050 n.1 (2d Cir. 1983) (issuing
certificate would be inconsistent with a summary dismissal).
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has disapproved issuance of blanket denials of
a certificate of appealability. Murphy v. Ohio, 263 F.3d 466 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, the district
court must “engage in a reasoned assessment of each claim” to determine whether a certificate is
warranted. Id. at 467. Each issue must be considered under the standards set forth by the Supreme
Court in Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473 (2000). Murphy, 263 F.3d at 467. Consequently, this
Court has examined each of Petitioner’s claims under the Slack standard. Under Slack, 529 U.S. at
484, to warrant a grant of the certificate, “[t]he petitioner must demonstrate that reasonable jurists
would find the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong.” Id. “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). In applying this standard, the Court may not conduct a full merits review, but must limit
its examination to a threshold inquiry into the underlying merit of Petitioner’s claims. Id.
The Court finds that reasonable jurists could not conclude that this Court’s dismissal
of Petitioner’s claims was debatable or wrong. Therefore, the Court will deny Petitioner a certificate
A Judgment and Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: March 3, 2015
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?