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Brantley v. Waybourn

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

December 11, 2019

BILL WAYBOURN, Sheriff, Tarrant County, Texas, Respondent.



         Before the Court are Tarrant County Jail inmate Ross Thomas Brantley, III's (“Brantley”) petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (ECF No. 1), Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn's response (labeled “Reply”) with exhibits (ECF No. 10), and Brantley's reply brief, supplemental reply brief, and second supplemental reply brief (ECF Nos. 15, 17, and 18).[1] After considering the relief sought by Brantley, the record, related briefing, and applicable law, the Court concludes that Brantley's § 2241 petition should be construed as a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and the petition under § 2254 must be DISMISSED.


         Brantley challenges his custody pursuant to the judgment of conviction and sentence of the 372nd District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, in cause number 1091400D. Pet. 2-3, ECF No. 1. Brantley was charged by indictment with the offense of assault causing bodily injury to a family or household member with a prior family violence conviction. Resp. 2, ECF No. 10. In April 2008, Brantley entered a plea of guilty in exchange for five (5) years' deferred adjudication community supervision. Id.; Resp. Exhibit A, ECF No. 10. In 2011, the state filed a petition to proceed to adjudication, and the Court, finding that Brantley violated certain conditions of his community supervision, adjudicated his guilt and sentenced him to ten years' confinement on December 2, 2011. Pet. 3, ECF No.1; Resp. 2; Exhibit B, ECF No. 10. In the petition filed in this case, Brantley challenges that conviction, asserting that (1) the state court abused its discretion in revoking his community supervision and adjudicating his guilt because he complied with his reporting requirements, and because the complainant was not a family member; (2) the state court improperly considered a then-pending new charge at his adjudication hearing; (3) his rights under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment were violated; and (4) he was denied effective assistance of counsel. Pet. 5-6, ECF No. 1.


         A. § 2241 Petition Construed as a § 2254 Petition

         After review and consideration of the petition as filed, this Court finds that it should be construed as a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by a person in state custody. Irrespective of the label a petitioner uses, the Court must consider a filed habeas petition under the proper statutory framework. See Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 662-65 (1996); Solsona v. Warden, F.C.I., 821 F.2d 1129, 1132 n.1 (5th Cir. 1987). Section 2254 is reserved for habeas petitions on “behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a judgment of a State court.” 28 U.S.C. 2254(a). A petition filed under § 2241 which attacks the validity of a state prisoner's underlying state conviction or the sentence imposed by the trial court is properly construed as a § 2254 petition. See Branch v. Dretke, No.3:03-cv-2607-H, 2004 WL 1877798, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 20, 2004), R and R adopted, 2004 WL 1960192 (N.D. Tex. Sep. 2, 2004); see generally In re Wright, 826 F.3d 774, 778 (4th Cir. 2016) (providing that the “majority view is that § 2241 habeas petitions from convicted state prisoners challenging the execution of a sentence are governed by § 2254” and concluding that “regardless of how they are styled, federal habeas petitions of prisoners who are ‘in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court' should be treated as ‘applications under section 2254' for purposes of § 2244(b), even if they challenge execution of a state sentence”) (citing cases). Furthermore, a state prisoner may not use the general provisions found in 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to circumvent restrictions applicable to § 2254 actions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Tolliver v. Dobre, 211 F.3d 876, 877 (5th Cir. 2000) (addressing a petitioner's attempt to circumvent the restriction on filing successive motions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255); Williams v. O'Brien, No. 4:06-CV-834-Y, 2007 WL 60487, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 5, 2007) (construing § 2241 petition challenging state court conviction as a petition under §2254 and rejecting Petitioner's claim that he could rely upon § 2241 because a § 2254 petition would be “inadequate or ineffective”); Branch, 2004 WL 1877798, at *1 (“By attempting to proceed under § 2241 it appears that petitioner merely seeks to avoid § 2254's prohibition on filing successive petitions. However, a petitioner may not utilize § 2241 merely to avoid the various provisions specifically applicable to § 2254 actions.”). Thus, the instant petition is properly characterized as a petition under § 2254.

         B. Successive § 2254 Petition

         This is Petitioner's third petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed in this Court challenging the same state court conviction. Pet., Brantley v. Stephens, No. 4:13-CV-883-A, ECF No. 1; Pet, Brantley v. Davis, No.4:16-CV-673-O, ECF No. 1. The Court takes judicial notice of the pleadings and state court records filed in these prior federal habeas actions in the Fort Worth division of this the Northern District of Texas.

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b) requires dismissal of a claim presented in a second or successive petition filed by a state prisoner under § 2254 that was or could have been presented in a prior petition unless-

(A) the application shows that the claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable; or
(B)(i) the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence; and
(ii) the facts underlying the claim, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.

28 U.S.C. ยง 2244(b)(1)-(2). Further, before such a petition is filed in federal district court, the petitioner must move for authorization to file the petition in the ...

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