United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division
LEONARD J. BARNETT ADC #096041 PETITIONER
WENDY KELLEY, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction RESPONDENT
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge Brian S. Miller. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely
file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal
questions of fact.
any objections to:
Clerk, United States District Court Eastern District of
Arkansas 600 West Capitol Avenue, Suite A149 Little Rock, AR
before the Court is a § 2254 Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner, Leonard J. Barnett
(“Barnett”). Doc. 2. Before addressing
Barnett's habeas claims, the Court will review the
procedural history of the case in state court.
April 4, 2001, Barnett appeared, with counsel, in the Circuit
Court of Saline County, Arkansas, and, pursuant to a
negotiated plea, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in the third
degree. Doc. 6-2 at 1. In exchange for his plea, the
prosecutor reduced the original charge from rape to sexual
abuse in the third degree and nolle prossed the habitual
offender enhancement. Doc. 6-2 at 4. The Court
imposed a sentence of three years' probation. The Order
imposing probation conditions directed Barnett to:
“[r]eport to [the] probation office immediately to set
up sex offender registration.” Doc. 6-2 at 1-2.
State of Arkansas v. James Barnett, Saline County
Circuit Court Case No. CR00-588 (“2001
conviction”). Barnett did not appeal the conviction or
sentence. Nor did he file any type of post-conviction
October 14, 2011, Barnett appeared, with counsel, in the
Circuit Court of Saline County, Arkansas, and pleaded guilty,
in three separate pending criminal cases, to various offenses
related to his failure to comply with state statutory
requirements imposed on him due to his sex offender
status. See State of Arkansas v. Barnett,
Saline County Circuit Court cases CR2009-568-1, CR2011-504-4,
and CR 2011-030-4 (collectively, “2011
convictions”). For each of the three 2011 convictions,
the Court imposed the same sentence - 60 months imprisonment.
All three sentences were to be served
concurrently. Doc. 6-1 (Judgment and Commitment
Orders). Nothing in the record suggests that Barnett
attempted to appeal or to seek post-conviction relief
regarding any of the three convictions.
December 18, 2014, the Arkansas Parole Board (“Parole
Board”) denied Barnett's “parole plan.”
Doc. 6- at 16. Nothing in the record suggests that
Barnett attempted to appeal the Parole Board's denial of
31, 2015, Barnett filed this habeas action, in which he
contends that his constitutional liberty rights have been
infringed without due process and equal protection because
the Parole Board denied him parole. He specifically complains
that the Parole Board rejected his plan to live at 1513 Oak
Street, Benton, Arkansas (“proposed home
address”) because it was too close to a school or
park. Docs. 2 & 6-3 (inmate
summary). Barnett requests habeas relief in the form of an
Order: (1) requiring the Parole Board to allow him to parole
to his proposed home address; or (2) requiring the Parole
Board to show cause what law prohibits him from returning to
his proposed home address.
argues Barnett's claims are not cognizable in a §
2254 habeas action, or alternatively, the claims should be
dismissed based on failure to exhaust and procedural default.
Doc. 6. The Court directed Barnett to file a Reply,
but he failed to do so. Doc. 7. Thus, the issues are
joined and ripe for resolution.
reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that the
Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus be denied, and that the
case be dismissed, with prejudice.
2254 “unambiguously provides that a federal court may
issue a writ of habeas corpus 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.'” Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1,
5 (2010) (per curiam) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
2254(a)). “‘[F]ederal habeas corpus relief does
not lie for errors of state law.'” Swarthout v.
Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 219 (2011) (omitting citations).
Thus, this Court's authority in resolving Barnett's
habeas Petition is limited to determining whether a federal
constitutional violation has occurred. Accordingly, any
questions surrounding whether the Parole Board correctly
applied state law or properly followed its own policies may
not be resolved in this federal habeas action.
protected liberty interest “may arise from the Due
Process Clause itself or from an expectation or interest
created by state law or policies.” Jenner v.
Nikolas, 828 F.3d 713 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing
Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005). Under
well-established federal law, Barnett does not have a
protected liberty interest in the possibility of
being granted parole, much less in being paroled to a
specific address. See Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S.
116, 220 (2011) (“There is no right under the Federal
Constitution to be conditionally released before the
expiration of a valid sentence, and the States are under no
duty to offer parole to their prisoners.”);
Greenholtz v. Inmates of the Neb. Penal & Corr.
Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979) (“There is no
constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be
conditionally released before the expiration of a valid
sentence.”). The mere possibility of parole, without
more, provides at most a hope that the benefit ...