United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS, AND DENYING THE ISSUANCE OF A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.
Petitioner, Ray Anthony Rollins, filed this pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on January 28, 2014. Petitioner does not challenge any state conviction or sentence. Rather, petitioner challenges the denial of a parole hearing by the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole ("MBPP") and the Missouri Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Prior to filing this federal petition, petitioner filed a declaratory judgment action in the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri and the judge granted summary judgment in favor of the DOC. Petitioner appealed the circuit court's decision, and the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed.
The petition raises three Grounds for relief: (1) that the DOC and the MBPP denied petitioner due process when he was not granted a parole hearing on a specific date; (2) that the trial court denied petitioner due process by granting summary judgment in favor of the DOC and denying his declaratory judgment actions; and (3) that the DOC denied petitioner access to the courts by operation of its "QLC" (qualified legal claim) policy, which he contends denied him the right to legal counsel and access to the courts.
Respondent contends that none of petitioner's Grounds are cognizable on federal habeas review.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The Missouri Court of Appeals summarized the facts as follows:
[Petitioner] pleaded guilty to burglary in the first degree, rape and two counts of ACA. The Circuit Court of St. Louis County sentenced [petitioner] to a term of fifteen years on the burglary count to be served concurrently with two concurrent terms of twenty-four years on the ACA counts, followed by a consecutive term of five years on the rape count. The burglary and ACA counts were calculated to start on October 15, 1991. The rape count was calculated to start on October 14, 2010, which was the conditional release date for the ACA counts under section 558.011.4(1)(c) (the last five years of a sentence of more than fifteen years is the conditional release term).
The DOC's Board of Probation and Parole ("Parole Board") held a parole hearing on October 30, 1998, but declined to parole [petitioner] based on the circumstances of his offenses-raping a teenage girl by the use of threat and forcible compulsion-and on his failure to substantially observe prison rules, as evidenced by his accumulation of conduct violations, including threatening a correctional officer. The Parole Board concluded that release at that time would depreciate the seriousness of [petitioner's] criminal behavior and promote disrespect for the law. The Parole Board held another hearing in October 2003 but declined to grant [petitioner] parole because the Parole Board concluded it would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses.
In 2006 and 2007, DOC records custodian officers responded in writing to inquiries by [petitioner] regarding his release. In a 2006 memorandum, the records officers advised [petitioner] that on the twenty-four-year concurrent sentences for ACA, he was required to serve nineteen years before obtaining his conditional release date of October 14, 2010, when he would then begin serving his five-year sentence for rape. He was advised that on the five-year sentence for rape he must serve three years and four months before being eligible for conditional release, which would calculate to a date of February 14, 2014. He was also advised that he was not serving a term of eighty-five percent on any of the offenses for which he was sentenced. In a 2007 memorandum, the records officer confirmed that the DOC had not applied statutory minimum terms based on section 558.019 and that [petitioner] must serve three years on the ACA sentences prior to being eligible for parole. The records officer stressed that parole dates are at the discretion of the Parole Board.
Another parole hearing was held in October 2008, but the Parole Board declined to grant [petitioner] parole because the Parole Board concluded it would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses and because there did not appear to be a reasonable probability that [petitioner] would live and remain at liberty without again violating the law based on his poor institutional adjustment.
In January 2009, the Circuit Court of St. Louis County denied [petitioner's] previously filed motion requesting that the court correct the DOC's alleged error in applying the definition of a "dangerous felony" found in section 556.061 and the "minimum prison term" provisions of section 558.019 to [petitioner's] sentences. The court found that "[n]othing contained in [petitioner's] pleading causes the Court to find that relief sought is either necessary or appropriate."
On November 12, 2010, the Parole Board again considered [petitioner] for parole and again declined to release him because the Parole Board again concluded it would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses. However, the Parole Board did schedule [petitioner] for release from confinement on February 13, 2014, conditioned upon his obtaining a GED, having no contact with the victim, not drinking, and attending substance abuse and sex offended programs.
On November 29, 2010, [petitioner] filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment with the trial court alleging that the DOC erroneously treated his ACA conviction as a dangerous felony under the statutory minimum prison term provisions of sections 556.061(8) and 558.019, making him ineligible for parole on his ACA sentences for nineteen years rather than the three years provided in section 571.015. He requested declarations that (i) the DOC erroneously applied the mandatory minimum prison term to his ACA sentence, and (ii) his sentence for ACA is a term of three years and not nineteen years.
The DOC filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that [petitioner's] face sheet demonstrated that he was being counted as having a three-year mandatory-minimum prison term on his armed criminal action sentences and was not being treated as statutorily ineligible for parole as evidenced by the fact that he received parole hearings in 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2010. The trial court issued its judgment on March 1, 2011, ...