United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION, United States District Judge
Paul B. Wolf, an inmate currently confined in the State
Correctional Institution, Somerset,
(“SCI-Somerset”), Pennsylvania, filed the above
captioned petitions for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §2254. (Doc. 1).
Petitioner claims in both actions that he “was a
defendant in [Adams/York] County Pennsylvania, in the past,
most of those cases incarceration was imposed, and the
Plaintiff has long since served the maximum sentences imposed
in prison and is now still suffering the ongoing effects of
being buried in debt, for court costs that are alleged to be
outstanding, such costs that the Plaintiff cannot afford to
pay because of his financial status, fixed income, elderly
and disabled, barely enough funds available to the Plaintiff
to cover rent.” Id.
such, Wolf filed the instant actions claiming that he
“cannot afford to pay these accumulated costs and prays
that the Court enter an order directing that these court
costs be waived or dismissed.” Id. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the petitions
for writ of habeas corpus.
corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to
Rule 4 (“Preliminary Review; Serving the Petition and
Order”) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in
the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. §2254
(1977) (applicable to §2241 petitions through Rule
1(b)). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491
F.Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D.Pa.1979). Rule 4 provides, in
pertinent part, “If it plainly appears from the
petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not
entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must
dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the
petitioner.” A petition may be dismissed without review
of an answer “when the petition is frivolous, or
obviously lacking in merit, or where ... the necessary facts
can be determined from the petition itself.” Allen
v. Perini, 26 Ohio Misc. 149, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th
Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 906 (1970). The Allen
court also stated that “the District Court has a duty
to screen out a habeas corpus petition which should be
dismissed for lack of merit on its face.” Id.
function of habeas corpus is to secure release from illegal
custody. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475
(1973). Therefore, a prisoner may seek federal habeas relief
only if he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
federal law. 28 U.S.C. §2254(a). In general, a petition
for habeas corpus relief becomes moot when an inmate is
released from custody before the court has addressed the
merits of the petition. Lane v. Williams, 455 U.S.
624 (1982). However, in Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S.
1, (1998), the Supreme Court cautioned that a
petitioner's release in and of itself does not render his
habeas petition moot. Rather, “[t]he more substantial
question ... is whether petitioner's subsequent release
caused the petition to be moot because it no longer presented
a case or controversy under Article III, § 2,
of the Constitution.” Id. at 7.
“This case-or-controversy requirement subsists through
all stages of federal judicial proceedings, trial and
appellate ... the parties must continue to have a personal
stake in the outcome of the lawsuit.” Lewis v.
Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477-78 (1990)
(internal quotations omitted). As such, throughout the
litigation, the plaintiff “must have suffered, or be
threatened with, an actual injury traceable to the defendant
and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial
decision.” Id. at 477 (citations omitted);
see also Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7.
instant case, Wolf challenges sentences that were had in York
and Adams County and their associated costs and fees. He
clearly states that he has served the maximum on all
sentences. Consequently, his sentences have expired. Where a
petitioner suffers no present restraint resulting from an
expired conviction, he is not “in custody” for
the purposes of invoking federal habeas jurisdiction to
challenge that conviction. Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S.
488, 492 (1989). As such, Petitioner's challenges to his
York and Adams County convictions are moot.
extent that Petitioner challenges the costs and fees that
remain from his York and Adams County convictions, such is
not a challenge to the fact or duration of his confinement.
These actions also do not affect the length of his sentence.
Significantly, Petitioner does not seek relief that would
shorten the length of his current sentence and incarceration
in prison. Federal habeas corpus review is available only
“where the deprivation of rights is such that it
necessarily impacts the fact or length of detention.”
Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002).
Therefore, his claims are not properly asserted in a habeas
petition brought under 28 U.S.C. §2254, but rather must
be pursued through the filing of a civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.
reasons stated above, the petitions for a writ of habeas
corpus will be DISMISSED. An ...