United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler Division
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Clark, United States District Judge
Petitioner Hubert Seaton, proceeding pro se, filed an
application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 complaining of the legality of a municipal court
conviction. This Court referred the case to the United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) &
(3) and the Amended Order for the Adoption of Local Rules for
the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate Judges.
The Magistrate Judge issued a Report that noted that Mr.
Seaton failed to show that he was “in custody”
when he filed the petition, as required for habeas corpus
jurisdiction, and recommended that the petition be dismissed
without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies. Mr.
Seaton filed objections.
considering the objections in light of a de novo review of
the entire record, this court concludes that Mr. Seaton
failed to show he exhausted his State remedies. Nor has he
shown that he was in custody when he filed his petition or
that a significant limit on his liberty has been imposed. Mr.
Seaton's objections are overruled and, as recommended by
the Magistrate Judge, the application for writ of habeas
corpus is dismissed without prejudice.
Seaton's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
Seaton used a standard federal form to file his petition pro
se. Mr. Seaton complained of a municipal court conviction for
what he describes as “an illegal dog vaccination
ticket.” (Doc. # 1 at 6-7). He stated that he pleaded
not guilty in “Tyler Municipal Court, Judge Richard B.
Patterson” and had a jury trial. (Doc. #1 at 2-3). Mr.
Seaton stated that he appealed his conviction in the
“Municipal and District” courts, but received no
relief. (Doc. #1 at 3). He asserted that “there has
been no final judgment in this matter, the record will
reflect this.” (Doc. #1 at 9).
petition, Mr. Seaton stated the following grounds for relief:
1) an illegal trial was conducted in Tyler Municipal Court
because the dog was only 3 months of age and the State had no
legal jurisdiction until the dog was 4 months of age; 2) the
State presented no evidence that the he owned the dog; 3) the
jury ignored the jury instructions and presumed him guilty;
4) the judge and prosecution tried him knowing they had no
proof he owned the dog or that the dog was four month of age;
5) the prosecutor suborned perjury from the animal control
officer; and (6) the State court failed to inform him where
to file an appeal and issued an illegal failure to appear
arrest warrant. (Doc. # 1 at 6-7).
Report of the Magistrate Judge and the Petitioner's
reviewing the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report
and Recommendation and noted that Mr. Seaton had failed to
establish that he was in custody or subject to significant
restriction upon his liberty when the petition for writ of
habeas corpus was filed. (Doc. #8). The Magistrate Judge
further recommended that the petition be dismissed without
prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies.
Seaton responded by filing a letter in which he stated,
“I hereby appeal the decision of the Magistrate
Court.” (Doc. # 10). As Mr. Seaton is appearing pro se,
this court will deem this “appeal” to be a timely
objection to the Report and Recommendation. In paragraph 2 of
the letter, Mr. Seaton stated the following, which the court
considers as his objection: “The court has erred. All
state remedies have been exhausted. Look at the Plea Deal as
the Plaintiff informed the court earlier. You have overlooked
the facts in this case. There are no State Remedies
Seaton Failed to Establish Jurisdiction
objections, Mr. Seaton does not address the Magistrate
Judge's statement that the court lacks jurisdiction. The
proponent of federal court jurisdiction has the burden of
establishing it. Physicians Hosps. of Am. v.
Sebelius, 691 F.3d 649, 652 (5th Cir. 2012). In order
for a federal court to have jurisdiction in a habeas case,
the petitioner must be in custody when he files his petition.
Pack v. Yusuff, 218 F.3d 448, 454 n.5 (5th Cir.
2000). This is because the sole purpose of habeas corpus is
to grant relief from unlawful imprisonment or custody.
Pierre v. United States, 525 F.2d 933, 935-36 (5th
Cir. 1976). Physical custody is not always required, but
there must at least be some significant restriction upon
liberty. See Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236, 240,
83 S.Ct. 373, 9 L.Ed.2d 285 (1963). Habeas corpus cannot be
invoked to challenge a conviction which resulted in a cash
fine only. Spring v. Caldwell, 692 F.2d 994, 996
(5th Cir. 1982).
his petition, Mr. Seaton's objections do not indicate
that he was in custody when he filed his petition. The
Magistrate Judge noted that his petition does not state what
punishment was imposed by the municipal court for this
allegedly illegal “failure to vaccinate a dog”
charge. (Doc. #8 at 2). Mr. Seaton's letter of appeal,
which contains his objections, likewise gives no hint as to
the punishment. As a general rule, a first time conviction
for failure to vaccinate a dog is a Class C misdemeanor. See,
e.g., Tex. Health & Safety Code § 826.022. Class C
misdemeanors carry only fines as punishment. Tex. Penal Code
§ 12.23. Based on the petition (Doc. #1), the appeal
letter (Doc. #10), and relevant Texas ...