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Thomason v. Marshall

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

May 8, 2019

STEVEN CLAYTON THOMASON, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN T. MARSHALL Attorney General of the State of Alabama, Respondent.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Steven Clayton Thomason (“Thomason”) filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on March 4, 2019. Doc. # 1.[1] Thomason attacks his Elmore County, Alabama misdemeanor conviction for failure to obtain a homebuilder's license, for which he received a 10-day suspended sentence and was placed on 12 months of unsupervised probation. For the reasons that follow, the court finds that Thomason is entitled to no relief.

         II. RELEVANT STATE COURT PROCEEDINGS

         On January 20, 2015, Thomason was convicted in the Elmore County District Court for failure to obtain a homebuilder's license in violation of § 34-14A-14, Ala. Code 1975, a misdemeanor. Doc. # 12-1 at 1. The court imposed a 10-day suspended sentence and placed Thomason on 12 months' unsupervised probation. Id. Pursuant to § 12-12-70(b), Ala. Code 1975, Thomason appealed to the Elmore County Circuit Court for a trial de novo. See § 12-12-71, Ala. Code 1975. Doc. # 12-1 at 2; Doc. # 12-4 at 1.

         During the pendency of his appeal to the state circuit court, Thomason attempted to appeal his conviction to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Doc. # 12-4. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the appeal on March 10, 2016, explaining that “jurisdiction of one case cannot be in two courts at the same time” and that jurisdiction of Thomason's case was in the Elmore County Circuit Court. Doc. # 12-5 at 1.

         On September 19, 2016, when Thomason failed to appear for the trial de novo, the Elmore County Circuit Court dismissed his appeal and remanded the case to the district court to enforce his sentence. See Doc. # 12-2 at 6; Doc. # 12-3; Doc. # 12-7 at 1. The circuit court noted on its case action summary that Thomason's sentence was to begin on September 19, 2016. Doc. # 12-2 at 6. Thomason attempted to appeal the circuit court's order of dismissal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, but the appeal was dismissed on grounds that the circuit court's order was unappealable. Doc. # 12-7.

         On May 11, 2017, Thomason filed a petition in the district court collaterally attacking his conviction under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. See Doc. # 12-8 at 1. The district court denied Thomason's Rule 32 petition on July 11, 2017. Doc. # 12-8 at 1. Thomason did not appeal that dismissal, but on July 14, 2017, he filed in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals what that court construed as a petition for writ of mandamus. Doc. # 12-9. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals transferred the mandamus petition to the Elmore County Circuit Court for disposition. Docs. # 12-9 & 12- 10. The circuit court denied the mandamus petition on October 3, 2017. Docs. # 12-11 & 12-12. Thomason appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which dismissed the appeal on November 28, 2017, because Thomason failed to pay the requisite filing fee. Doc. # 12-13. Thomason petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for review of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals' ruling, and the petition for certiorari was stricken on February 27, 2018, because it was untimely filed. Docs. # 12-13 & 12-14.

         III. THOMASON'S § 2254 PETITION

          On March 4, 2019, Thomason filed this § 2254 petition for habeas corpus relief challenging his Elmore County District Court conviction. His petition presents claims that (1) the district court did not have jurisdiction to convict or sentence him because he was not appointed an attorney; (2) his double jeopardy rights were violated because he received multiple convictions for the same crime in the same jurisdiction; (3) his arrest was illegal because he could not seek administrative relief prior to being charged criminally; and (4) the charging instrument upon which he was convicted was based on a forged document, which amounted to “fraud on the court.” Doc. # 1 at 5-24.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A.In Custody” Requirement

         Federal district courts have jurisdiction to entertain § 2254 petitions only from 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) (emphasis added); see, e.g., Means v. Alabama, 209 F.3d 1241, 1242 (11th Cir. 2000). The Supreme Court in Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488 (1989), stated that this “in custody” requirement means “the habeas petitioner [must] be ‘in custody' under the conviction or sentence under attack at the time his petition is filed.” 490 U.S. at 490- 91. A petitioner is considered “in custody” for purposes of habeas jurisdiction while he is on probation or parole. See id. at 491. Where a habeas petitioner's sentence has expired, he does not meet the “in custody” requirement. Id.

         As noted above, when Thomason was convicted in the Elmore County District Court, that court imposed a 10-day suspended sentence and placed Thomason on 12 months' unsupervised probation. Thomason appealed to the Elmore County Circuit Court for a trial de novo, but that appeal was dismissed on September 19, 2016, when Thomason failed to appear. In dismissing the appeal, the circuit court remanded the case to the district court to enforce Thomason's sentence, noting that Thomason's sentence was to begin on September 19, 2016. See Doc. # 12-2 at 6; Doc. # 12-3; Doc. # 12-7 at 1. Therefore, Thomason's unsupervised probation would have ended 12 months later, on approximately September 19, 2017. Thomason filed his ยง 2254 petition on March 4, 2019. Because his sentence, ...


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