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Corliss v. Cummings

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 2, 2017

NATE CORLISS, Petitioner,
v.
SHERIFF JAMES CUMMINGS, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge

         This is a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On May 24, 2016, Corliss pleaded guilty in the Orleans District Court to fourteen counts of violating an abuse prevention order in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A § 7. The state court sentenced him to two and a half years in the house of corrections. It appears that petitioner has not filed an appeal yet with any Massachusetts appellate court.

         Corliss has filed an amended petition for habeas relief based on four different grounds. Respondent James Cummings, Sheriff of Barnstable County, has filed a motion to dismiss because petitioner has not exhausted any of his state remedies. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         On April 19, 2016, Corliss's ex-girlfriend filed a complaint with the Dennis police. (Arr. Tr. at 5). She reported that there was an outstanding restraining order against him that included a no-contact provision. (Id.). However, over the preceding 24 hours, Corliss had sent her at least four e-mails, called her on the telephone, and showed up at her home, repeatedly professing his love for her. (Id. at 5-6). Corliss later denied to investigating officers that he had sent the emails in question. (Sen. Tr. at 8).

         At his arraignment on April 22, 2016, Corliss attempted to plead guilty to the charges against him and indicated he wanted to waive his right to an attorney. (Arr. Tr. at 8). Subsequently, at his bail hearing on May 10, 2016, he again attempted to plead guilty and waive his right to an attorney. (Bail Tr. at 2). However, the court entered a “not guilty” plea to “preserve [his] rights” and reminded him of his right to counsel. (Id. at 3-4).

         At his sentencing hearing on May 24, 2016, before Judge Robert Welsh, Corliss stated that he had post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. (Sen. Tr. at 4). However, he denied that those conditions affected his decision-making abilities. (Id.). The court reminded him of his constitutional rights to counsel and to trial by jury, but he affirmed that he wanted to waive those rights. (Id. at 4-5). Throughout the proceeding, Corliss indicated that he was knowingly and willingly pleading guilty. The court, in light of the impact on the victim and petitioner's criminal history, [1] followed the state's recommendation in sentencing him to two and a half years for each violation, to be served concurrently. (Id. at 16).

         B. Procedural Background

         On the same day Corliss was sentenced, he filed a notice of intent to appeal. (Docket No. 1, Ex. 1 at 7). Pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 29, he moved to revise and revoke his sentence, but requested “that no immediate action be taken on this motion.” (Id. at 10). Judge Welsh denied the motion without a hearing. (Id.). Corliss then attempted to move for a new trial under Mass. R. Crim. P. 30. (Pet'r Aff. ¶ 11; Docket No. 6, Ex. 1 at 2).

         The Committee for Public Counsel Services assigned attorney Kyle Wibby to investigate Corliss's attempts to withdraw his guilty plea. (Pet'r Aff. ¶ 10). Wibby had been present for Corliss's sentencing on May 24, 2016, as Wibby was the attorney on duty at Orleans District Court. (Docket No. 1, Ex. 1 at 15). In an affidavit, Wibby stated that “there was mention of possible competency issues” with Corliss. (Id.). However, Wibby was replaced by attorney Kathleen Hill. (Id. at 14). She entered a limited appearance on Corliss's behalf on September 6, 2016. (Id. at 16).

         Proceeding pro se, Corliss filed a habeas petition with this Court on January 4, 2017, based on 18 different grounds. (Docket No. 1). However, because the petition did not comply with Rules 2 and 3 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, the Court ordered him to file an amended petition. (Docket No. 5). The amended petition was filed on March 16, 2017, and claimed four grounds for relief: (1) “circumstances exist[ed] that render such [due] process ineffective to protect the rights of [petitioner]”; (2) disability and incapacitation rendered him unable to proceed pro se; (3) violations of the oath of office by Judge Welsh and the prosecuting assistant district attorney; and (4) false imprisonment. (Docket No. 6). Respondent has moved to dismiss, contending that Corliss failed to exhaust all of his remedies in state court.

         II. Analysis

         Before applying for a writ of habeas corpus, a petitioner must exhaust his available remedies in state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). Specifically, the petitioner must demonstrate that he has “exhausted his state remedies by having first presented the federal constitutional issue to the state courts for their decision.” Goodrich v. Hall, 448 F.3d 45, 47 (1st Cir. 2006). Where a claim raised in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is unexhausted, “it would be unseemly in our dual system of government for a federal district court to upset a state court conviction without an opportunity to the state courts to correct a constitutional violation.” Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 ...


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