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Fifth Circuit: Habeas Petition Challenging Recent Parole Denial Not Considered Successive

by Matt Clarke

On April 1, 2009, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order holding that a federal habeas corpus petition challenging procedures used to deny parole at a parole hearing which occurred after a previous habeas petition had been filed was not a successive petition.

Richard Delaney Kyles, a Texas state prisoner, filed a motion asking the U.S. District Court to consider a successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The petition challenged the parole board’s use of parole laws which were stricter than the laws in effect at the time his offense was committed, which the board relied upon to deny him parole at a 2007 hearing.

Kyles alleged that the retroactive application of the stricter parole laws violated the ex post facto and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The district court initially dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim, but that dismissal was reversed on appeal. [See: PLN, July 2008, p.42].

Because he had filed a previous federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2006, and Rule 9 of the rules governing Section 2254 cases in the U.S. District Courts requires that prisoners who want to file a second or successive habeas petition first obtain an order from the appropriate Court of Appeals authorizing the district court to consider the petition, Kyles filed the motion with the Fifth Circuit.

The appellate court held that a petition is considered successive when it involves facts that could have been raised in a prior petition. Because Kyles complained about actions taken by the parole board in 2007, the appellate court noted he “could not have brought those claims in his earlier § 2254 application that was filed in 2006 ‘because those claims had not yet arisen,’” citing Crone v. Cockrell, 324 F.3d 833, 837 (5th Cir. 2003).

“Because the factual predicate for Kyles’s present parole-related claims occurred in 2007, after his earlier § 2254 application was filed, his proposed application is not successive. ... Therefore, Kyles is not required to obtain this court’s authorization to proceed with his proposed application,” the Fifth Circuit wrote, citing In re Cain, 137 F.3d. 234, 235-236 (5th Cir. 1998). Kyles’ motion for permission to file a successive petition was therefore denied as being unnecessary. See: In re Kyles, Appeal Case No. 09-20046 (5th Cir. 2009) (unpublished).

Following remand, the district court dismissed Kyles’ complaint again, on the grounds that it was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). The court held that “the granting of relief would necessarily imply the invalidity of the parole decisions plaintiff challenges in this civil rights action.” Kyles appealed a second time.

On November 30, 2009 the Fifth Circuit held that Kyles’ claim was not barred by Heck, because he was seeking “relief that will ‘render invalid the state procedures used to deny ... parole suitability’ but does not seek ‘an injunction ordering his immediate or speedier release into the community.’” See: Kyles v. Garrett, 353 Fed.Appx.942 (5th Cir. 2009) (unpublished).

Following remand, on August 19, 2010 the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants and dismissed the case yet again. The court found “that plaintiff’s ex post facto claim regarding the denial of parole in 2004 in the present action is barred by collateral estoppel.” Also, Kyles’ claims regarding denial of parole in 2002 and 2004 were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and he had failed “to show that his constitutional rights have been violated.”

Kyles has appealed to the Fifth Circuit for a third time, and his appeal remains pending. This case has been in the courts for eight years thus far. See: Kyles v. Garrett, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Tex.), Case No. 3:03-cv-00053; 2010 WL 3303736.

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Related legal cases

Kyles v. Garrett

Kyles v. Garrett

In re Kyles