Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Prisoner's Habeas Petition Challenging Calculation of Sentence

Prisoner Isaac Leigh Hunter appealed from the district court's denial of his application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hunter was seeking relief from a decision of the BOP to "deny him credit, through a nunc pro tunc order, against his federal sentence for time served in Texas state custody on unrelated state convictions," according to the Appellate Court's opinion.

Hunter had been arrested by Hillsboro, Texas Police in 2003 after being charged with retaliation, and again arrested thereafter for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He went into state custody at that time. After a search warrant had been obtained, a subsequent search of Hunter's residence disclosed 19.51 grams of crack cocaine. He was then indicted in United States District Court for the Western District of Texas on a charge of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine. According to the opinion, "Hunter pleaded guilty to the single federal charge and was sentenced to eighty-seven months imprisonment on that charge on February 11, 2004. The district court judge was silent as to whether the federal sentence was to run concurrently with or consecutively to any future state sentence. After sentencing Hunter was transferred back to state custody."

After pleading guilty to the state charge, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, to run concurrent with his federal sentence, and also credited him with 466 days against one count and 338 days for another count for all time spent in custody, including in federal custody, prior to sentencing. In 2007, he completed his state sentence, and transferred to the custody of the BOP, but received no credit on his federal sentence for time spent in state custody. His habeas petition followed. Hunter has argued that the BOP's refusal to grant him the benefit of a concurrent sentence as expressed by the state judge, violates constitutional principles of federalism. He also argued that "the BOP, an executive branch agency of the Department of Justice, holds the effective power to determine whether his state and federal sentences should run concurrently violates the constitutional principle of the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches."

The Appellate Court rejected the first argument, quoting decisions from the Second, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, including Bloomgren v. Belaksi, 948 F.2d 688 (10th Cir. 1991), which stated that "the determination by federal authorities that (the) federal sentence would run consecutively to his state sentence is a federal matter which cannot be overridden by a state court provision for concurrent sentencing on a subsequently obtained state conviction." The Court failed to find any separation of powers violations, stating that "his request to the BOP for a nunc pro tunc designation is tantamount to a request for post-sentencing leniency, which is the proper domain of the executive branch...the district court here offered no opinion as to whether Hunter's sentences should run consecutively or concurrently, and (they) ran consecutively, because the district court did not specify otherwise."

As a result of this finding the appellate court denied Hunter's petition for a writ of habeas corpus under Section 2241. See: Hunter v. Tamez, 622 F.3d 427 (5th Cir. 2010).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal cases

Hunter v. Tamez

Hunter v. Tamez