United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Emily Harris filed the instant "Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241" on behalf of
Z.L.,  her minor child. (Doc. 1) . This action
has been referred to the undersigned for appropriate action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) (1) (A) and S.D. Ala.
GenLR 72(a) (2) (S). For the reasons set forth below, it is
RECOMMENDED that Harris' petition be
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because
Z.L. is not "in custody" for habeas corpus
states that she and Z.L. have been Alabama residents since
October 2017. (Doc. 1 at 1). She contends that Respondent,
Samuel Lester, represented to the 442nd Judicial District
Court in Denton County, Texas, that he is the father of Z.L.,
and furnished to the Court a letter bearing Harris'
signature. The letter granted Lester "managing
conservatorship" over Z.L. (Id. at 1, 18) .
Harris maintains that she signed the letter under duress, and
that the 442nd Judicial District Court erroneously assumed
jurisdiction over the matter of the custody of Z.L. and
ultimately entered an order granting custody of Z.L. to
Respondent Lester. (Id. at 1, 23-37, 32-33) .
According to Harris, she received a notice on April 19, 2018,
to appear with Z.L. the following day at the Strickland Youth
Center in Mobile, Alabama, and that when she did so, Z.L. was
placed in the custody of Respondent Lester, and the two
returned to Texas. (Id. at 2-3).
filed the instant action seeking habeas relief on April 20,
2018. She is seeking an order from this Court "deny[ing]
any legal authority to adjudicate Samuel Lester claim until
he has presented to this court sufficient evidence that he is
lawfully entitled to have the child in his custody in
accordance with the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the State
of Alabama." (Id. at 3). Harris further
requests that Z.L. be returned to her custody and that
jurisdiction over Z.L.'s guardianship be vested in the
Circuit Court of Mobile County, Alabama. (Id.).
2241 is the statutory grant of authority to federal courts to
issue a writ of habeas corpus when certain jurisdictional
prerequisites are satisfied. Medberry v. Crosby, 351
F.3d 1049, 1059 (11th Cir. 2003) . While courts have expanded
the scope of jurisdiction under this section, Eleventh
Circuit precedent provides that the remedy habeas corpus
provides remains tied to some form of relief from the
petitioner's custody. Arnaiz v. Warden, Fed.
Satellite Low, 594 F.3d 1326, 1328-1329 (11th Cir. 2010)
. "It is clear, not only from the language of [the
statutes], but also from the common law history of the writ,
that the essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a person
in custody upon the legality of that
custody ..." Id. (citing Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 1833, 36 L.Ed.2d
439 (1979))(emphasis added in Arnaiz).
Supreme Court has stated that the writ of habeas corpus is
generally available "to challenges to state-court
judgments in situations where - as a result of a state-court
criminal conviction - a petitioner has suffered substantial
restraints not shared by the public generally."
Lehman v. Lycoming Co. Children's Serv. Agency,
458 U.S. 502, 510, 102 S.Ct. 3231, 73 L.Ed.2d 928 (1982).
Thus, while the typical habeas corpus petitioner is a
prisoner who wishes to challenge their conviction, the
Supreme Court has extended the remedy to those petitioners
who, while not actually physically incarcerated, have
"suffered substantial restraints not shared by the
public generally." Id.; see also Holm v.
Strange, 2016 WL 7407099 at *3, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
177724 at *7 (N.D. Ala. Dec. 22, 2016) .
accordance with its prior holdings that the invocation of
federal habeas statutes requires a deprivation of liberty,
the Supreme Court has held that habeas jurisdiction may not
be invoked to challenge state-court decisions regarding
parental rights or child custody. Lehman, 458 U.S.
at 510-11. Children who are separated from their parents
pursuant to a state court order are not prisoners and
"suffer no usual restraints not imposed on other
children[, ]" such that "extending [habeas corpus]
to challenges to state child custody decisions - challenges
based on alleged constitutional defects collateral to the
actual custody decision - would be an unprecedented expansion
of the jurisdiction of the lower federal courts."
Id. at 511-12. The Lehman Court further
The considerations in a child-custody case are quite
different from those present in any prior case in which this
Court has sustained federal-court jurisdiction under [federal
habeas statutes] . The federal writ of habeas corpus,
representing as it does a profound interference with state
judicial systems and the finality of state decisions, should
be reserved for those instances in which the federal interest
in individual liberty is so strong that it outweighs
federalism and finality concerns.
Id. at 515-16; see also Holm, 2016 WL
7407099 at *3, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177724 at *7 (denying a
petition for writ of habeas corpus where petitioners sought
to compel the Alabama Department of Human Resources to return
their son to their custody).
Harris attempts to litigate the issue of her parental rights
through the medium of federal habeas corpus. However, as the
Lehman Court noted, federal habeas procedure does
not afford federal district courts the ability to adjudicate
the custodial rights of parents. The fact that Z.L. has been
removed from Harris' custody does not mean that the child
is "in custody" for federal habeas purposes.
Because the custody requirement has not been met, this Court
lacks the jurisdiction to consider the matter.
on the foregoing, it is RECOMMENDED that Harris' habeas
corpus petition (doc. 1) be DISMISSED ...