455 U.S. 624 (1982), 80-1240, Lane v. Williams

Docket Nº:No. 80-1240
Citation:455 U.S. 624, 102 S.Ct. 1322, 71 L.Ed.2d 508
Party Name:Lane v. Williams
Case Date:March 23, 1982
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 624

455 U.S. 624 (1982)

102 S.Ct. 1322, 71 L.Ed.2d 508




No. 80-1240

United States Supreme Court

March 23, 1982

Argued December 1, 1981




In 1975, both respondents pleaded guilty in unrelated Illinois state court prosecutions for burglary, an offense punishable at that time by imprisonment for an indeterminate term of years and a mandatory 3-year parole term. Neither respondent, during his plea acceptance hearing, was informed that his negotiated sentence included the mandatory parole term. Each respondent completed his prison sentence, was released on parole, and was then reincarcerated for parole violation. While in custody, each filed petitions for federal habeas corpus, which were consolidated in the District Court, alleging that the failure of the trial courts to advise them of the mandatory parole requirement before accepting their guilty pleas deprived them of due process of law. The District Court found for respondents and, in accordance with the relief requested by them, merely ordered their release through "specific performance" of the plea bargains, rather than nullifying the guilty pleas and allowing them to plead anew. After a remand from the Court of Appeals based on a question as to exhaustion of state remedies, the District Court ultimately again entered judgment for respondents. Since they had already been discharged from custody, the court simply entered an order "declaring void the mandatory parole term[s]." The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Respondents' claims for relief are moot. Assuming that the failure to advise respondents of the mandatory parole requirement rendered their guilty pleas void, they could have sought to have their convictions set aside and to plead anew, and this case would not then be moot. Such relief would free them from all consequences flowing from their convictions, as well as subject them to reconviction with a possibly greater sentence, thus preserving a live controversy to determine whether a constitutional violation had occurred and whether respondents were entitled to the relief sought. However, by seeking "specific enforcement" of the plea agreement by elimination of the mandatory parole term from their sentences, respondents instead elected to attack only their sentences, and to remedy the alleged constitutional violation by removing the consequence that gave rise to the constitutional harm. Since their parole terms have now expired, they are no longer subject to any direct restraint

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as a result of the parole terms, and the case is moot. Neither the doctrine that an attack on a criminal conviction is not rendered moot by the fact that the underlying sentence has expired nor the doctrine that a case is not moot where it is "capable of repetition, yet evading review," is applicable here. Pp. 630-634.

633 F.2d 71, vacated.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 634.

STEVENS, J., lead opinion

[102 S.Ct. 1324] JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1975, respondents pleaded guilty in Illinois state court to a charge of burglary, an offense punishable at that time by imprisonment for an indeterminate term of years and a mandatory 3-year parole term. We granted certiorari to consider whether the failure of the trial court to advise respondents of that mandatory parole requirement before accepting their guilty pleas deprived them of due process of law. We are unable to reach that question, however, because we find that respondents' claims for relief are moot.


On March 11, 1975, respondent Lawrence Williams appeared in Illinois state court and pleaded guilty to a single count of burglary. Before accepting the guilty plea, the trial judge elicited Williams' understanding of the terms of a plea agreement, in which his attorney and the prosecutor had

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agreed that Williams would receive an indeterminate sentence of from one to two years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty. The judge informed Williams that he would impose the bargained sentence, and advised him of both the nature of the charge against him and the constitutional rights that he would waive by pleading guilty. After the prosecutor established a factual basis for the plea, Williams indicated that he understood his rights and wished to plead guilty.

At the time that Williams pleaded guilty, Illinois law required every indeterminate sentence for certain felonies, including burglary, to include a special parole term in addition to the term of imprisonment.1 During the plea acceptance hearing, neither the trial judge, the prosecutor, nor defense counsel informed Williams that his negotiated sentence included a mandatory parole term of three years.

Williams was discharged from prison on May 20, 1976, and released on parole. On March 3, 1977, he was arrested for

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reasons that do not appear in the record and, on March 16, 1977, he was returned to prison as a parole violator. While in custody, Williams filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He alleged that he "was not informed" that a mandatory parole term had attached to his sentence until two months before his discharge from prison, and that "his present incarceration is therefore in violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." App. 12. Williams' petition did not ask the federal court to set aside his conviction and allow him to plead anew. It requested an order "freeing him from the present control" of the Warden and from "all future liability" under his original sentence.2

[102 S.Ct. 1325] On January 4, 1978, the District Court found that Williams' guilty plea had been induced unfairly in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and ordered Williams released from custody. United States ex rel. Williams v. Morris, 447 F.Supp. 95 (1978). The court expressly "opted for specific performance" of the plea bargain "rather than nullification of the guilty plea." Id. at 101. The relief granted was precisely what Williams had requested.

Williams was not, however, immediately released from custody. The District Court entered a stay to give the State an opportunity to file a motion for reconsideration. Before that stay was lifted, Williams was released from prison on a special 6-month "supervisory release term." The District Court subsequently denied the State's motion to reconsider and the State appealed.3 While that appeal was pending,

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Williams' 6-month release term expired, and he was released from the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The facts concerning respondent Southall are similar. Pursuant to a plea bargain with the prosecutor that was accepted in advance by an Illinois trial court, Southall pleaded guilty to a single charge of burglary and was sentenced to prison for a minimum period of one year and a maximum period not to exceed three years. The transcript of the plea acceptance proceeding contains no statement by the prosecutor, Southall's public defender, or the trial judge that the bargained and imposed sentence included the mandatory 3-year parole term. Like respondent Williams, Southall completed his sentence, was released on parole, and later declared a parole violator.4 While reincarcerated, he filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal court, seeking his "immediate release." App. 65.5 His case was consolidated in the District Court with that of respondent Williams.

The District Court found "Southall's situation to be factually indistinguishable from Williams'." 447 F.Supp. at 102. The court thus granted Southall's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The State filed an appeal from that decision, but discharged Southall in compliance with the decision of the District Court.6

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The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that respondents had failed to exhaust an available state remedy. 594 F.2d 614 (CA7 1979). Before reaching that decision, however, the court requested the parties to submit supplemental briefs on the issue of mootness. The court concluded that the cases were not moot. It noted that Southall's mandatory parole term extended beyond the date of its decision, and thus could be reinstated. While Williams' parole term had expired, the court concluded that the controversy was still alive, because

there remain collateral consequences which might have lingering effects, since [Williams was] found guilty of [a] violatio[n] of the mandatory parole;

that violation "would remain upon [his] recor[d] with various possible adverse consequences." [102 S.Ct. 1326] Id. at 615.7 Moreover, the court found the issue to be capable of repetition, yet evading review;

[i]t is obvious that, because of the short terms often remaining in the mandatory parole terms, the same issue may be expected to be raised as to other petitioners similarly situated, with doubtful expectations of resolution.


After the Court of Appeals had rendered its decision, respondent Southall was discharged from the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections.8 On remand, the District Court concluded that, as a result of an intervening decision of the Illinois Supreme Court, exhaustion of state remedies would be futile. 483 F.Supp. 775 (1980). The court again entered judgment for respondents; since they had already

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been released from custody, the court simply entered an order "declaring void the mandatory parole terms." App. 39. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, 633 F.2d 71 (1980), and we granted the State's petition for certiorari. Sub nom. Franzen v. Williams, 452...

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