United States District Court, D. New Jersey
May 6, 2005.
STEVEN A. MATHEWS, Petitioner,
ROY L. HENDRICKS, et al., Respondents.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ANNE THOMPSON, Senior District Judge
Petitioner Steven A. Mathews filed a Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging a decision of
the New Jersey State Parole Board ("NJSPB") in 2000 denying
parole and imposing a 10-year future eligibility term. Because
Petitioner was released on parole after the Petition was filed,
this Court will summarily dismiss the Petition as moot and deny a
certificate of appealability.
Petitioner asserts the following facts in the Petition and
exhibits. On October 19, 2000, a two-member panel of the NJSPB
denied parole and referred the matter to a three-member panel to establish a future parole eligibility term on Petitioner's
sentence of 30 to 99 years. On October 25, 2000, the three-member
panel imposed a 120-month future parole eligibility term.
Petitioner appealed and on June 23, 2003, the Appellate Division
of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed. On January 21,
2004, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied Mathews' petition for
On August 20, 2004, Petitioner filed the § 2254 Petition
presently before this Court. Petitioner challenges the
constitutionality of the decisions denying parole and imposing a
10-year future parole eligibility term.*fn1 On December 30,
2004, the NJSPB released Petitioner on parole to a halfway house.
As a result, this Court issued an Order to Show Cause directing
Petitioner to show why the Petition should not be dismissed as
In his response to the Order to Show Cause, Petitioner asserts
that the Petition is not moot because he satisfied the "in
custody" requirement, insofar as he was incarcerated at the time
his Petition was filed; he has taken all steps to have his claims
promptly reviewed prior to his release and any delay was due to
the failure of the New Jersey courts to issue a decision for five
years; and he suffered collateral consequences from the wrongful
denial of parole in 2000. II. DISCUSSION
A district court has subject matter jurisdiction to "entertain
an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person
in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the
ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A
federal court has jurisdiction under § 2254 if two requirements
are satisfied: (1) the petitioner is "in custody" pursuant to a
judgment of a State court, and (2) the custody is "in violation
of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States."
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490 (1989); 1
James S. Liebman & Randy Hertz, Federal Habeas Corpus Practice
and Procedure § 8.1 (4th ed. 2001).
In this case, Petitioner challenges the denial of release on
parole and the imposition of a 10-year future parole eligibility
date by the NJSPB in 2000. It is undisputed that the NJSPB
released Petitioner on parole on December 30, 2004. Petitioner
argues that the Petition is not moot, however, and he presents
three arguments in that regard. First, Petitioner asserts that
his challenge to the denial of parole is not moot because he was
"in custody" at the time his Petition was filed and, although he
was released on parole, parole satisfies the "in custody"
requirement. Petitioner is correct that he satisfied the "in
custody" jurisdictional requirement under § 2254, insofar as he
was "in custody" at the time he filed the Petition. See
Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1 (1998).*fn2 The question in
this case is not whether Petitioner is "in custody" but whether
his release on parole on December 30, 2004, caused his challenge to
the denial of parole to become moot because it no longer presents
a "case or controversy" under Article III, § 2, of the United
States Constitution. See Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7; DeFunis v.
Odegaard, 416 U.S. 312, 316 (1974); Chong v. Dist. Dir., INS,
264 F.3d 378, 383 (3d Cir. 2001).
The exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a
case or controversy because Article III of the Constitution
limits the judicial power of federal courts to "cases or
controversies" between parties. U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2. "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). "This means that, 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." Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7 (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted). In this case, were this
Court to rule in Petitioner's favor, there is no habeas relief
that this Court could grant that would redress Petitioner's
allegedly unconstitutional incarceration for the past five years.
See Husovsky v. Lavan, 2004 WL 2316635 (E.D. Pa. 2004)
(habeas petition asserting that state parole board denied parole
based on a retroactive application of statutory amendments in
violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause became moot when petitioner
was paroled because case no longer presented a live controversy).
Petitioner further argues that the Petition should not be
dismissed as moot because he has taken all steps to have his
claims promptly reviewed prior to his release and Respondents
should not be able to benefit from the five-year delay in the
adjudication of his claims by the New Jersey courts. To be sure, the Third Circuit has emphasized that "an
appeal is not moot even though the appellant has been released
from custody or has served his sentence if he has taken all
possible steps to have the order of confinement promptly reviewed
prior to his release." Lee v. Stickman, 357 F.3d 338, 343 (3d
Cir. 2004) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
However, the petitioner in Lee v. Stickman challenged his
conviction, not the denial of parole. And it is established that
an inmate's habeas challenge to a conviction does not become moot
even when an inmate is released upon expiration of the sentence
because "it is an `obvious fact of life that most criminal
convictions do in fact entail adverse collateral legal
consequences.'" Spencer, 523 U.S. at 12 (quoting Sibron v. New
York, 392 U.S. 40, 55 (1968)); see also Carafas v. LaVallee,
391 U.S. 234, 237-38 (1968). Moreover, in Spencer v. Kemna, the
Supreme Court expressly refused to extend "the presumption of
collateral consequences which is applied to criminal convictions
. . . to revocations of parole." 523 U.S. at 8.
Finally, Petitioner asserts that his habeas challenge to denial
of parole and imposition of a 10-year future eligibility date by
the NJSPB in 2000 is not moot because he suffers collateral
consequences. Specifically, he asserts that "[a]s a consequence
of his delayed release, petitioner's extended incarceration,
inability to seek gainful employment or apply for release from
parole due to satisfactory adjustment along with other tangible
benefits has been denied." (Letter dated April 13, 2005, at 1-2.)
However, because "the incarceration that he incurred as a result
of [denial of parole in 2000] is now over, and cannot be undone,"
Spencer, 523 U.S. at 8, the consequences cited by Petitioner
would not and could not be redressed by a favorable decision
granting habeas relief. To avoid mootness, petitioner must show
that he is presently subject to negative legal consequences due
to the denial of parole in 2000, or that he is currently suffering from an injury caused by the denial of parole in 2000
which can be redressed by a writ of habeas corpus. This he has
not shown. See Husovsky, supra.
This Court is constrained by the Supreme Court's decision in
Spencer v. Kemna to dismiss the Petition as moot. See
Husovsky, supra. In Spencer, the Supreme Court held that a
petitioner's habeas challenge to the wrongful termination of his
parole became moot when he was released at the expiration of his
sentence. The Supreme Court noted that, although the district
court had jurisdiction when the habeas petition was filed because
the petitioner was "in custody," the 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." Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7.
Like Spencer, the Petitioner here satisfied the "in custody"
requirement because he was incarcerated when he filed his
Petition. Petitioner's December 30, 2004, release on parole
mooted his claim that the denial of parole in 2000 was
unconstitutional. The Petition became moot when the NJSPB granted
parole because Petitioner was no longer threatened with "an
actual injury traceable to the [respondent] and likely to be
redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Spencer,
523 U.S. at 7; see also Husovsky, supra. The Court will therefore
dismiss the Petition as moot.*fn3 B. Certificate of Appealability
This Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c) because Petitioner has not shown
that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether this Court
was correct in dismissing the Petition as moot. See Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 478 (2000).
For the reasons set forth above, the Court dismisses the
Petition as moot and declines to issue a certificate of