United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Ellis, III. United States District Judge
Louis Bassett, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed
a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, challenging the decision by the Virginia Parole
Board to deny him discretionary parole. The petition
initially was filed in the United States District Court for
the Western District of Virginia and was transferred to this
district by an Order entered on December 15, 2015. The matter
is now before the Court on respondent's Motion to Dismiss
the petition, which was filed along with a supporting
memorandum of law and exhibits on October 3, 2016. (Dkt. No.
16-17) Petitioner was provided with the notice required by
Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975)
and Local Rule 7(J), and he submitted his Opposition to
Memorandum in Support on November 9, 2016. (Dkt. No. 18-19)
Accordingly, the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the
following reasons, respondent's Motion to Dismiss must be
granted, and the petition must be dismissed.
January and March, 1995, petitioner was sentenced in the
Petersburg Circuit Court to serve an aggregate of 65 years,
16 months and 20 days in the Virginia Department of
Corrections ("VDOC") for malicious wounding,
firearms charges, a parole violation, and five counts of
robbery. Pet. at 1. On September 29, 1995, VDOC informed
petitioner in a Legal Update that he had been determined to
be ineligible for discretionary parole for those offenses.
(Dkt. No. 15, Ex. B at 60-61) Petitioner never
appealed this determination to the Virginia Parole Board, but
in 2014 he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
contesting his discretionary parole ineligibility status in
the Circuit Court of the County of Southampton. His petition
was denied and dismissed on January 15, 2015. Bassett v.
Brown, Case No. CL14-560. (Dkt. No. 15, Ex. B at 105-06)
The Supreme Court of Virginia subsequently refused
petitioner's appeal of that result. Bassett v.
Brown, R. No. 150332 (Va. Oct. 14, 2015); Id.
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to §2254,
petitioner argues that the determination of his parole
ineligibility by the Virginia Parole Board and VDOC (1) is
unlawful because his crimes were part of a common transaction
or scheme as that term is defined under Virginia law, and (2)
violated his right to due process. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex A)
Respondent has moved to dismiss the petition on several
grounds, among which is the dispositive contention that
petitioner's claims are not redressable in this §
is not entitled to the federal habeas corpus relief he seeks
because his petition raises only issues of state law. "A
state prisoner is entitled to relief under 28 U.S.C. §
2254 only if he is held 'in custody in violation of the
Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States.'" Billotti v. Legursky, 975 F.2d
113, 119 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting Engle v. Isaac,
456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)). Thus, questions of state law that
do not implicate federal rights are not cognizable on federal
habeas review under § 2254. Id. (citing
Inge v. Procunier, 758 F.2d 1010, 1014 (4th Cir.
1985)). A state prisoner's eligibility for parole is a
question of state law that is not subject to federal review.
Ramdass v. Angelone, 187 F.3d 396, 407 (4th Cir.
1999). While petitioner invokes his federal constitutional
right to due process in his petition, his claim in fact rests
solely on interpretation of the applicable provisions of the
well established that an inmate has no constitutional right
to be paroled prior to the expiration of a valid sentence.
See Greenholtz v. Inmate of Nb. Penal & Corr.
Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979). Here, petitioner states
that he is serving a sentence of over 65 years imprisonment
that was imposed approximately 22 years ago. Thus, at
present, he has no constitutional right to be paroled.
Moreover, the United States Supreme Court has noted that
"the validly sentenced prisoner who shows only that the
State made a procedural error in denying discretionary parole
has not established a right to release, and so cannot obtain
habeas relief-conditional or otherwise." Wilkinson
v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 86-7 (2005) (emphasis in
original) (Scalia and Thomas, concurring). In this case,
petitioner does not claim that his sentence or conviction is
invalid. Rather, he takes issue only with the state
procedures used to deny him discretionary parole. Because
Bassett has no constitutional right to be released on parole,
his petition is not cognizable on federal habeas
foregoing reasons, respondent's Motion to Dismiss must be
granted, and the petition must be dismissed, with prejudice.
An appropriate Order shall issue.
Petitioner initially was received by
VDOC on December 23, 1981. (Dkt. No. 15, Ex. A) He was
released on mandatory parole on January 18, 1994, arrested
for violating his parole on March 11, 1994, and returned to
VDOC jurisdiction on April 21, 1995. (Dkt. No. 15, Ex. B at
59) The Legal Update informed him that "under the
provisions of Va. Code Section 53.1-151 [he was] ineligible
for discretionary parole on all sentences which were imposed
after being released on parole which were committed on or
after 7-1-82." Id. at 60.
To the extent that petitioner's
invocation of his right to due process might be broadly read
to suggest that the denial of discretionary parole violated
an enforceable liberty interest, his claim is still not
cognizable in this proceeding. A due process challenge to a
protected liberty interest, including a challenge to a state
parole procedure, is not properly brought pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254, but instead must be raised in an action
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Greenholtz
v. Inmate of Nb. ...