United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester
JONATHON C. HOOD, Petitioner,
RUSSELL WASHBURN, Warden TTCC, and ROBERT BAGGETT, Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk, Respondents.
Jordan United States District Judge.
C. Hood (“Petitioner”), a state prisoner, filed
this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the United States District Court for
the Middle District of Tennessee [Doc. 1]. After Petitioner
paid the $5.00 habeas filing fee [Doc. 6], the Middle
District transferred his petition to this Court as the more
appropriate venue to adjudicate a challenge to a Franklin
County, Tennessee judgment [Doc. 9]. For the reasons below,
the Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction over the case and
will DISMISS the petition.
April 26, 2007, pursuant to his guilty pleas, Petitioner was
convicted in the Franklin County Circuit Court in No. 17294
of driving while intoxicated, 5th offense, was sentenced to 2
years and 6 months' incarceration, and was assessed a $3,
000.00 fine [Doc. 1 at 1]. Petitioner was set to serve one year in
prison on the effective 5-year sentence imposed in both
cases, with the remainder of the sentence on probation.
Hood v. State, No. M2013-01655-CCA-R3-HC, 2014 WL
1831034, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 6, 2014), perm. app.
den. (Tenn. 2014). Petitioner began to serve his
sentence in April of 2007. Id. Petitioner did not
pursue a direct appeal.
February 19, 2009, Petitioner filed in the trial court a
motion to discharge the fine in No. 17295, on the basis that
his sentence had expired. Hood v. State, No.
M2009-00661-CCA-R3-PC, 2010 WL 3244877, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Aug. 18, 2010), perm. app. den. (Tenn. 2010).
The trial court denied relief on March 5, 2009 [Doc. 1-15],
and Petitioner appealed. Hood, 2010 WL 3244877, at
*1. The appeal was dismissed because Petitioner had no appeal
as of right from a denial of a motion to discharge fines and
because the record was incomplete and could not support his
assertion of error in the denial of his motion to discharge
the fine. Id.
April or May of 2013, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus in the state trial court in Nos. 17294 and
17295, in which he conceded that his prison sentence in No.
17294 was lawful but argued that his ongoing fines were
illegal given the expired judgments and the concomitant lack
of trial court jurisdiction [Doc. 1 at 5 and 21]. The
petition was summarily dismissed and Petitioner appealed
[Doc. 1 at 5]. Hood, 2014 WL 1831034, at *1.
appeal, Petitioner maintained “that when his sentences
expired, his judgments became void and, thus, that his having
to continue to pay fines is an impermissible restraint on his
liberty.” Id., 2014 WL 1831034, at *1. The
state appellate court declined to grant relief, reasoning
that Petitioner was not imprisoned on the cases underlying
his petition and that “habeas corpus relief is not
available when a petitioner has been assessed a fine but is
not incarcerated” because “[t]he assessment of a
fine upon a defendant does not constitute imprisonment or
restraint within the meaning of [the state habeas corpus
statute].” Id., 2014 WL 1831034, at *1
(internal citations omitted). The state supreme court denied
Petitioner's application for permission to appeal [Doc. 1
at 9]. Id., 2014 WL 1831034, at *1.
returned to the state trial court on January 1, 2018, to file
a second petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in which he
offered the same claims regarding his fines that he raised in
his first state habeas corpus petition [Doc. 1 at 5]. Without
holding an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied his
petition on the ground of res judicata, and the appellate
court affirmed the trial court's ruling. Hood v.
Baggett, No. M201800336CCAR3HC, 2018 WL 3752126, at *1
(Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 7, 2018). Petitioner did not file an
application for permission to appeal to the state supreme
court [Doc. 1 at 6].
to Attachment 1-13, Petitioner filed a third motion for a
sentence reduction on February 7, 2019, again seeking to set
aside the fines assessed in April of 2007 in Nos. 17294 and
17295 [Doc. 1-13 at 2]. On March 5, 2019, the trial court
entered an order denying Petitioner's motion,
acknowledging that a sentence reduction was available under a
state procedural rule if a motion for such is filed within
120 days of the judgment but explaining that the judgment in
Petitioner's cases were entered in 2007 [Doc. 1-15]. On
April 9, 2019, Petitioner filed this instant § 2254
petition [Doc. 1].
“In custody” Requirement
courts are authorized to “entertain an application for
a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody
pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground
that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a). The Sixth Circuit has instructed that
“federal courts have a duty to consider their subject
matter jurisdiction in regard to every case and may raise the
issue sua sponte.” Answers in Genesis of Kentucky,
Inc. v. Creation Ministries Int'l, Ltd., 556 F.3d
459, 465 (6th Cir. 2009). The Court does so here.
“in custody” term in § 2254(a) has been
interpreted as a requirement that the habeas petitioner be
‘“in custody' under the conviction or
sentence under attack at the time his petition is
filed.” Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-91
(1989) (per curiam). Thus, where a conviction has been fully
served, a habeas petitioner is no longer “in
custody” under that conviction, and a federal court
lacks jurisdiction to set aside the conviction on the ground
that the conviction was obtained in violation of the United
States Constitution. Maleng, 490 U.S. at 492. After
a conviction has completely expired, the collateral
consequences of such a conviction are not enough to render
the petitioner “in custody” under § 2254(a).
Petitioner does not challenge his conviction for DUI, 5th
offense; instead, he challenges, as a “Sentencing
Defect, ” the fine levied in the judgment of
conviction-a fine that he claims is “being actively
proscecuted [sic] for collection” [Doc. 1 at 14]. In
effect, Petitioner is arguing that, when his sentences
expired, the fines assessed as part of those sentences also
expired [Id. at 7 (alleging that “[h]is term
of imprisonment is satisfied and his sentence/punishment/fine
is supposed to be expired too”)]. Petitioner is further
arguing, as the Court interprets it, that because those fines
were part of his punishment ...