Matt v. Attorney General of the State of Montana
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 16 in full. Matt's Petition 1 , 5 , 8 , 13 is DENIED. A certificate ofappealability is DENIED. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 9/29/2014. Mailed to Matt. (TAG, )
SEP 2 9 2014
Clerk, 1.:'.8. District Court
District Of Montana
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
DARRlN WILLIAM MATT,
WARDEN; ATTORNEY GENERAL
OF THE STATE OF MONTANA,
United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch entered his Findings and
Recommendation on August 28,2014 denying Petitioner Matt's petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 for writ of habeas corpus. Matt filed a motion clarifying the central
issue in his dispute on April 16, 2014; Judge Lynch's Findings and
Recommendation pertain solely to that issue. Matt timely objected to the Findings
and Recommendation on September 5, 2014, and so is entitled to de novo review
of the record. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The portions of the findings and
recommendations not specifically objected to will be reviewed for clear error.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313
(9th Cir. 1981). "Where a petitioner's objections constitute perfunctory responses
argued in an attempt to engage the district court in a rehashing ofthe same
arguments set forth in the original habeas petition, the applicable portions of the
findings and recommendations will be reviewed for clear error." Rosling v.
Kirkegard, 2014 WL 693315 (D. Mont. 20 14) (citations omitted). For the reasons
listed below, the Court adopts Judge Lynch's Findings and Recommendation in
Matt's petition focuses on a delay he reportedly experienced in receiving a
sentence revocation hearing two years ago. On June 8, 2012, Matt was arrested
for allegedly violating the conditions of his release following a suspended
sentence for felony assault with a weapon. Approximately sixty-six hours passed
between the time of his arrest on June 8th and the time he was ostensibly able to
confer with his parole officer on June 11tho I Matt alleges that the delay violated
Montana state law, citing Montana Code Annotated § 46-23-1012 for the
proposition that a probable cause hearing on a probationer's arrest must occur
1. Matt's petition fails to note the exact date and time at which his probation officer made
contact with him. Instead, Matt calculates the purportedly unacceptable time frame from the time
he was arrested to the time he was transferred to the Lake County jail. Absent a more definite
date as to contact with his probation officer, the Court calculates the time frame as Matt does.
within thirty-six hours of detention.
Judge Lynch found, and the Court agrees, that the plain language of § 46
23-1012(3) gives a probation officer seventy-two hours to either: "(a) authorize
the detention center to release the probationer; (b) hold an intervention hearing
pursuant to § 46-23-1015; or (c) arrange for the probationer to appear before a
magistrate to set bail." As noted, Matt's probation officer made contact within the
Nevertheless, assuming arguendo that Matt's probation officer failed to beat
the clock in this case, Judge Lynch noted that federal habeas relief is unavailable
as a remedy for violations of purely state law. Wilson v. Corcoran, 561 U.S. 1,_,
131 S. Ct. 13, 16 (2010) (per curiam) ("it is only noncompliance with federal law
that renders a State's criminal judgment susceptible to collateral attack in the
federal courts ... [t]he habeas statute unambiguously provides that a federal court
may issue the writ to 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")..
Matt's objections do not directly address Judge Lynch's Findings and
Recommendation, but appear instead to reiterate his original due process claim,
albeit through an alternate legal theory. Matt alleges violations of Montana State
Department of Corrections Policy No. DOC 3.4.1, which addresses "[d]isciplinary
procedures ... intended to hold offenders accountable for misconduct while
incarcerated" and applies only to "adult offenders in Department and contracted
secure care facilities.,,2 Matt's objections allege that the June 8th through 11th
delay discussed above violated this policy. However, as the policy statement
makes clear, the policy itself applies only to incarcerated offenders, which Matt
was not at the time of his arrest. Further, similar to the alleged violation of § 46
23-1012, there simply is no federal habeas relief available for a violation of state
executive branch policy. Matt's objection is therefore without merit.
Finally, Matt's objections contain an entirely new claim related to the
sentence imposed upon him by the state court which revoked his suspended
sentence in 2012. Matt appears to allege that when the revoking court imposed
sentence in June 2012, it failed to take into account both the approximately fifteen
months he spent incarcerated following his sentencing on the felony assault
charge, and the approximately forty-one months he spent on probation after his
conditional release on January 26, 2009. Matt demands as a remedy "credit of all
incarcerated time and injuction [sic] of Department of Corrections policy and
procedures." (Doc. 17 at 2.) While the Court "has discretion, but is not required,
2. Montana Department of Corrections, DOC Policy No.3. 4.1: Offender Disciplinary System,
http://www.cor.mt.gov/contentlResourcesIPolicy/Chapter3/3-4-1.pdf (accessed September 19,
to consider evidence presented for the first time in a party's objection to a
magistrate judge's recommendation," the Court nevertheless "must actually
exercise its discretion, rather than summarily accepting or denying" the allegations
raised in the objections. Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1208 (9th Cir. 2012)
(citations omitted). The Court will consider the merits of Matt's new claim.
Montana Code Annotated § 46-18-203(7)(b) provides that "if a suspended
or deferred sentence is revoked, the judge shall consider any elapsed time and
either expressly allow all or part of the time as a credit against the sentence or
reject all or part ofthe time as a credit." Regardless of how the judge exercises
discretion on the issue, ''the judge shall state the reasons for the ... determination
in the order." Mont. Code Ann. § 46-18-203(7)(b); State v. Williams, 69 P.3d 222,
224-225 (Mont. 2003). The judge must give credit "for time served in a detention
center or home arrest time already served." Mont. Code Ann. § 46-18-203(7)(b).
"Any judicial disposition of a criminal case resulting from a plea, verdict or
fmding of guilt is itself a sentence, regardless of whether actual punishment is
deferred or immediately imposed," and must be appealed to the Montana Supreme
Court within sixty days. State v. Rice, 910 P.2d 245, 246 (Mont. 1996).
Generally, a party wishing to challenge the validity of such a sentence has one
year from the expiration of the sixty day time frame in which to do so. Mont.
Code Ann. §§ 46-21-101, -102.
Even if Matt provided some modicum of documentary evidence to support
his new claim, which he does not, federal habeas relief is not available for such an
alleged state-law-grounded procedural error. Wilson, 131 S. Ct. at 16. Matt
requests relief in the form of an injunction against the Montana Department of
Corrections' exercise of its own operational policies, as well as a credit on his
post-revocation sentence for all time served. Neither remedy falls within the ambit
of federal habeas relief Apart from this insurmountable obstacle, it appears that
Matt's action for review of his post-revocation sentence is simply time barred
given that Matt's sentence was imposed in June 2012, this challenge falls well
beyond the two-step, fourteen month sentence appeal process prescribed by
Montana law. Matt's new objection-stage claim fails consequently.
There being no clear error in Judge Lynch's remaining Findings and
IT IS ORDERED that Judge Lynch's Findings and Recommendation
(Doc. 16) are ADOPTED IN FULL. Matt's Petition (Docs. 1,5,8, 13) is
DENIED. A certificate of appealability is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall enter by separate
document a judgment in favor of Respondents and against Petitioner.
DATED this Zq+l1 day of Septemb
Dana L. Christensen, Chief Ju ge
United States District Court
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