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Brooks v. Daniels

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

July 9, 2018

JESSE JAMES BROOKS, # 137228, Petitioner,
v.
LEEPOSEY DANIELS, et al., Respondents.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Jesse James Brooks, a state inmate at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama, filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. 1. Brooks challenges the decision by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles (the “Parole Board”) to rescind his parole after it initially granted parole.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Brooks was serving life sentences for convictions in the Washington County Circuit Court for third-degree burglary and in the Mobile County Circuit Court for second-degree possession of a forged instrument. On December 9, 2014, the Parole Board granted him parole subject to his submission of a satisfactory home-and-job plan. See Doc. 13-1 at 6. On May 7, 2015, the Parole Board sent Brooks a letter informing him that the home-and-job plan he had submitted was unsatisfactory and that he should submit another plan as soon as possible. Doc. 13-1 at 11. Thereafter, Brooks submitted another home-and-job plan. On July 10, 2015, the Parole Board sent Brooks a letter notifying him that a hearing would be held on September 3, 2015, at which the Board would consider (1) whether the parole order entered on December 9, 2014 was void; and (2) whether it was proper to grant parole. Doc. 13-1 at 12. On September 3, 2015, a hearing was held where Brooks' parole was rescinded. Doc. 13-1 at 13. His next parole consideration date was set for September 2018.

         On September 22, 2015, Brooks filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County challenging the Parole Board's decision to rescind his parole.[1] Doc. 13-1 at 5-10. In his petition, Brooks alleged that the Parole Board violated his due process rights by rescinding his parole without first finding that its previous order granting parole was improper. Doc. 13-1 at 9-10. He further alleged that the Parole Board violated his right to equal protection because he was similarly situated with individuals who had been granted parole and because the Board rescinded its order granting parole based on his race and religion. Doc. 13-1 at 8-10.

         On November 4, 2015, the circuit court entered an order dismissing Brooks' petition for writ of certiorari. Doc. 13-1 at 40. Brooks appealed the decision to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, [2] and on March 24, 2016 that court issued a memorandum opinion affirming the circuit court's judgment. Doc. 13-5. Brooks' application for rehearing was overruled on April 6, 2016. Docs. 13-6 & 13-7. Brooks then filed a petition for certiorari review with the Alabama Supreme Court. Doc. 13-10. That court denied the petition for certiorari on July 8, 2016. Doc. 13-11.

         Brooks filed this § 2254 petition on August 3, 2016, presenting claims that, in rescinding his parole, the Parole Board (1) violated his due process rights; (2) failed to comply with its own rules and procedures and with “mandatory” provisions of Alabama's parole statute; and (3) violated his right to equal protection. Doc. 1 at 5-9.

         For the reasons stated below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Brooks' § 2254 petition be denied and this action be dismissed with prejudice.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Due Process Claim

         Brooks claims that the Parole Board violated his due process rights by rescinding his parole. Docs. 1 at 9 & 2 at 6-12. However, there is no constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence.” Greenholtz v. Inmates of the Nebraska Penal & Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979); see also Bd. of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 377, n.8 (1987) (holding that a state has no duty to establish a parole system or to provide parole for all categories of convicted persons and that the state may place conditions on parole release). While a petitioner may have an expectation that he may someday be released or paroled, the natural desire to be released is no different from the initial resistance to be confined. Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 7. Once a valid conviction has been entered, the petitioner has been constitutionally deprived of his liberty right to be conditionally released before the expiration of his sentence. Id.

         Alabama law creates no liberty interest in a possible grant of parole because its parole statute is framed in discretionary terms and the parole of prisoners falls within the unfettered discretion of the Parole Board. Thomas v. Sellers, 691 F.2d 487, 489 (11th Cir. 1982); see Monroe v. Thigpen, 932 F.2d 1437, 1441 (11th Cir. 1991). Absent the existence of a constitutionally protected liberty interest in parole, “the procedures followed in making the parole determination are not required to comport with the standards of fundamental fairness.” O'Kelley v. Snow, 53 F.3d 319, 321 (11th Cir. 1995); Slocum v. Ga. St. Bd. of Pardons & Paroles, 678 F.2d 940, 942 (11th Cir. 1982). “Thus, the procedural due process protections of the Fourteenth Amendment do not apply either to the parole decision making process, or the parole consideration process.” James-Bey v. Dillard, 2014 WL 896968, at *6 (M.D. Ala. 2014) (citations omitted).

         The Parole Board rescinded Brooks' parole before he was released from prison. In Jago v. Van Curen, 454 U.S. 14 (1981), the Supreme Court held that even when a parole board grants parole and adopts a specific parole date, the understanding between the board and prisoner does not create a protected liberty interest and that, until a prisoner has actually been released, parole may still be rescinded without implicating constitutional rights. Jago, 454 U.S. at 14-21. Because the Parole Board rescinded Brooks' parole prior to his release from prison, the reasoning of Jago is controlling in Brooks' case.

         In affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Brooks' petition for writ of certiorari, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals noted that the State of Alabama's parole statute affords an inmate no liberty interest in the grant of parole, and-applying Jago-the court held that “[b]ecause Brooks had not been released from custody, he did not have a liberty interest at stake” and thus “he was not ...


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