632 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2011), 10-5584, Baze v. Parker

Docket Nº:10-5584.
Citation:632 F.3d 338
Opinion Judge:BOGGS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Ralph Stevens BAZE, Jr., Petitioner-Appellant, v. Philip PARKER, Respondent-Appellee.
Attorney:David M. Barron, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, Frankfort, Kentucky, Dennis J. Burke, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, LaGrange, Kentucky, for Appellant. William Robert Long, Jr., Office of the Kentucky Attorney General, Frankfort, Kentucky, for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: BOGGS, COLE, and COOK, Circuit Judges. BOGGS, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which COOK, J., joined. COLE, J. (pp. 346 - 47), delivered a separate opinion concurring in the judgment. COLE, Circuit Judge, concurring in the judgment.
Case Date:February 04, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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632 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2011)

Ralph Stevens BAZE, Jr., Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

Philip PARKER, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 10-5584.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

February 4, 2011

Page 339

ON BRIEF:

David M. Barron, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, Frankfort, Kentucky, Dennis J. Burke, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, LaGrange, Kentucky, for Appellant.

William Robert Long, Jr., Office of the Kentucky Attorney General, Frankfort, Kentucky, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS, COLE, and COOK, Circuit Judges.

BOGGS, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which COOK, J., joined. COLE, J. (pp. 346 - 47), delivered a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.

OPINION

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

Ralph Stevens Baze, Jr., a Kentucky inmate on death row, wishes to interview prison personnel to support his application for clemency. After the Kentucky Department of Corrections (" KDOC" ) denied Baze's request for unfettered access to these personnel, Baze sought relief in district court with a motion to order KDOC

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to allow him to conduct his desired interviews. The district court denied Baze's motion for a want of jurisdiction, and we affirm.

I

In February 1994, a Kentucky jury sentenced Baze to death for the 1992 murders of Sheriff Steven Bennett and Deputy Sheriff Arthur Briscoe. Direct review concluded in 1998, and this court upheld the denial of Baze's petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2004. Baze v. Parker, 371 F.3d 310, 315 (6th Cir.2004), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 931, 125 S.Ct. 1670, 161 L.Ed.2d 495 (2005).

After exhausting habeas proceedings, Baze began work on a clemency application.1 Appellant's Br., at 2. Baze believes that certain individuals at the prison where he is confined possess information that could strengthen his bid for clemency. Accordingly, on January 20, 2009, he requested permission for his attorneys to speak with prison guards, the death row unit administrator, and other death row inmates. Id. at 3. Two days later, the Commissioner of KDOC denied Baze's request.

On February 10, 2009, Baze filed a complaint in state court. Baze sought a declaratory judgment, claiming that KDOC's denial violated his constitutional rights. The court denied his claim, and the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed on January 21, 2010. Baze v. Thompson, 302 S.W.3d 57, 58, 60 (Ky.2010).

On February 24, 2010, Baze filed a motion in district court, in which he requested an order that KDOC allow him to conduct his desired interviews without interference. Baze argued that the order was authorized by 18 U.S. C. § 3599(f) and, in the alternative, the All Writs Act, 28 U.S. C. § 1651.

On May 6, 2010, the district court denied Baze's motion. The district court held that it lacked jurisdiction to issue the requested order because " [s]ection 3599(f) merely allows the Court to authorize the expenditure of funds ... [and] does not give the Court the authority to issue an order granting a defendant access to certain state officials or others in the hopes that they will provide information relevant to the clemency process." The court further held that the All Writs Act is not a source of jurisdiction to issue the order because " the Court has no independent jurisdiction over the state clemency process beyond the appointment of counsel under Section 3599(e) ... [and] because Section 3599 is not an independent source of jurisdiction, Baze's requested relief is not available under the All-Writs Act."

Baze filed this timely appeal, and this court has jurisdiction to review the final decision of the district court. 28 U.S. C. § 1291; see Harbison v. Bell, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1481, 1485, 173 L.Ed.2d 347 (2009) (" An order that merely denies a motion to enlarge the authority of appointed counsel ... is not [an order that disposes of the merits of a habeas proceeding] and is therefore not subject to the [certificate of appealability] requirement." ).

II

The sole issue presented for review is whether Congress has empowered district courts to grant a request like Baze's and to order state officials not to interfere with the gathering of information in support of

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clemency. 2 This court reviews such questions of subject-matter jurisdiction and statutory interpretation de novo. Mikulski v. Centerior Energy Corp., 501 F.3d 555, 560 (6th Cir.2007) (en banc) (" When a decision on subject-matter jurisdiction concerns pure questions of law ..., this court conducts a de novo review." ) (citation and italics omitted); United States v. Parrett, 530 F.3d 422, 429 (6th Cir.2008) (" We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo." ).

In determining the scope of a district court's jurisdiction, our starting point is that the lower federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess only those powers granted to them by Congress. Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545, 550, 109 S.Ct. 2003, 104 L.Ed.2d 593 (1989) (quoting Aldinger v. Howard, 427 U.S. 1, 15, 96 S.Ct. 2413, 49 L.Ed.2d 276 (1976) (noting that " federal courts ... are courts of limited jurisdiction marked out by Congress" )). With that principle in mind, federal courts must be reluctant to infer that Congress has expanded their jurisdiction. Welch v. Texas Dept. of Highways and Pub. Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 474, 107 S.Ct. 2941, 97 L.Ed.2d 389 (1987) (citing Am. Fire & Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 17, 71 S.Ct. 534, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951) (" The jurisdiction of the federal courts is carefully guarded against expansion by judicial interpretation." )).

A federal court's reluctance to infer jurisdiction is enhanced where an expansion of jurisdiction would implicate federalism concerns. United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336, 349, 92 S.Ct. 515, 30 L.Ed.2d 488 (1971) ( " [U]nless Congress conveys its purpose clearly, it will not be deemed to have significantly changed the federal-state balance." ); see Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cnty. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 531 U.S. 159, 174, 121 S.Ct. 675, 148 L.Ed.2d 576 (2001) (interpreting a statute to " avoid constitutional and federalism questions" where there was no " clear statement from Congress" to the contrary). Federalism concerns are particularly strong in criminal matters, and, absent a clear directive from Congress or the Constitution, a federal court should be loath to assume jurisdiction to interfere with state criminal proceedings, including postconviction proceedings. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 422, 123 S.Ct. 1513, 155 L.Ed.2d 585 (2003) (" A basic principal of federalism is that each State may make its own reasoned judgment about what conduct is permitted or proscribed within its borders, and each State alone can determine what measure of punishment...

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