Collins v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, CR-03-0285.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtBaschab
Citation911 So.2d 739
Docket NumberCR-03-0285.
Decision Date28 May 2004
PartiesMerlin COLLINS v. ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.

Page 739

911 So.2d 739
Merlin COLLINS
v.
ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.
CR-03-0285.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
May 28, 2004.

Merlin Collins, pro se.

Charles Crook, gen. counsel, and Albert Sim Butler, asst. gen. counsel, Department of Corrections, for appellee.

BASCHAB, Judge.


The appellant, Merlin Collins, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, arguing that the Alabama Department of Corrections ("DOC") had improperly classified him as a heinous offender. DOC responded, and the circuit court denied the petition, but ordered DOC to remove the designation of heinous from the appellant's

Page 740

classification. After DOC filed a motion for clarification, the circuit court struck its previous order and denied the petition in its entirety. This appeal followed.

The appellant argues that the circuit court improperly struck its order in which it had granted the relief he had requested. However, before we can reach his argument, we must determine whether this court has jurisdiction to hear this appeal. For the reasons set forth herein, we conclude that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, rather than this court, has jurisdiction to hear this appeal.

The appellant alleges that he was previously in minimum custody classification; that, based on information included in a presentence investigation about the offense for which he was convicted, DOC subsequently classified him as a heinous offender; and that, because of that classification, he will not ever be eligible for placement in an honor camp or a work release program. However, inmates do not have a liberty interest in a particular custody or security classification. See Handley v. State, 549 So.2d 630, 631 (Ala.Crim.App.1989) (citing Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 103 S.Ct. 864, 74 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983)); Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88 n. 9, 97 S.Ct. 274, 279 n. 9, 50 L.Ed.2d 236 (1976). "`[T]he classification scheme adopted by the Alabama prison system to determine the custody status of prisoners "is not arbitrary and capricious, but reasonable and appropriate."'" Hill v. State, 594 So.2d 246, 248 (Ala.Crim.App.1992) (quoting Monroe v. Thigpen, 932 F.2d 1437, 1441 (11th Cir.1991) (quoting in turn Hendking v. Smith, 781 F.2d 850, 852 (11th Cir.1986)), which holds that a prison regulation denying sex offenders minimum security status does not violate the Equal Protection Clause). "[C]ustody classifications in prison do not amount to matters in which the inmate has a constitutional right." Handley, 549 So.2d at 631. Therefore, the appellant has not shown that a liberty interest has been implicated in this case.1

In Ex parte Boykins, 862 So.2d 587 (Ala.2002), Boykins filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in which he asserted that DOC had improperly denied his request to receive incentive good time ("IGT"). The circuit court treated his petition as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and dismissed it, and he appealed to this court. After we affirmed the circuit court's judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court granted his petition for a writ of certiorari

"to address the question whether the Court of Criminal Appeals properly affirmed the trial court's order of dismissal where the basis of the dismissal was the trial court's treatment of Boykins's petition for a writ of certiorari as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus."

Ex parte Boykins, 862 So.2d at 588. Because the opinion in Ex parte Boykins represented a departure from established procedures, we quote from it extensively.

In Ex parte Boykins, when reversing this court's judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court stated:

"The record reveals that in March 1973 Boykins was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 60 years' imprisonment. In September 1974, while working on a `road camp,' Boykins escaped. He remained a fugitive from 1974 until April 1995, when he was returned to the custody of the DOC. While on escape, Boykins pleaded guilty to another murder in Illinois. Subsequent

Page 741

to his return to the custody of the DOC, Boykins requested eligibility to earn IGT. His requests were denied by the DOC because of its determination that Boykins failed to meet the criteria for receipt of IGT.

". . . .

"Boykins asserts that the conclusion by the Court of Criminal Appeals that the circuit court correctly treated his petition for a writ of certiorari as a petition for habeas corpus was incorrect. The basis for that conclusion was the Court of Criminal Appeals' recognition that a petition for habeas corpus is the proper means for testing whether the State has correctly calculated the duration of an inmate's incarceration. Breach v. State, 687 So.2d 1257 (Ala.Crim.App.1996); Swicegood v. State, 646 So.2d 158 (Ala.Crim.App.1993). However, Boykins argues that his petition does not question whether the State correctly calculated his sentence; instead, he argues that his petition sought to review an administrative determination by the DOC as to whether he was entitled to earn IGT. Boykins argues that because his petition sought review of an administrative decision rather than the vindication of a `liberty interest,' the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in determining that his petition was properly dismissed as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

". . . .

"The courts of this State have long recognized that the only purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to afford relief against actual restraints upon liberty. State v. Speake, 187 Ala. 426, 427, 65 So. 840, 841 (1914)(`The writ of habeas corpus has been defined, or rather described, as "that legal process which is employed for the summary vindication of the right of personal liberty when illegally restrained."'); Powell v. State, 726 So.2d 735, 737 (Ala.Crim.App.1997)(`The sole function of habeas corpus relief is to provide relief from unlawful imprisonment or custody, and it cannot be used for any other purpose.'); Stinson v. State, 43 Ala.App. 257, 258, 188 So.2d 287, 288 (1966) (`The writ of habeas corpus is concerned solely with the lawfulness of the present holding of the petitioner.' (citing Adams v. State, 30 Ala.App. 487, 8 So.2d 219 (1942))); Williams v. State, 42 Ala.App. 140, 140, 155 So.2d 322, 323 (1963)('"It should always be borne in mind that the applicant for the writ of habeas corpus is not entitled to the writ unless he is actually restrained of his liberty . . . . Mere moral restraint (such as a military arrest, confinement to quarters, or parole, for example), as distinguished from actual confinement, is generally insufficient to warrant issuance of the writ."' (quoting Walter B. Jones, Habeas Corpus, State and Federal, Ala. Law., Oct. 1952, at 384)).

"In this case, Boykins is not challenging the duration of his sentence. Neither is he asserting that he is unlawfully imprisoned because he has completed all of the time he was sentenced to serve. The facts in this case do not raise the question whether a sentence has been correctly calculated, as did Breach and Swicegood, supra, and those cases, relied upon by the Court of Criminal Appeals, are not applicable to this case. Rather, in this case, Boykins is challenging the propriety of the DOC's ruling on his request for IGT. We agree with the determination of the Court of Criminal Appeals, relying on Ala.Code 1975, § 14-9-41, Coslett v. State, 697 So.2d 61 (Ala.Crim.App.1997), Parker v. State, 648 So.2d 653 (Ala.Crim.App.1994), and Gullett v. State, 613 So.2d 400 (Ala.Crim.App.1992), that Boykins does not have a liberty interest in the DOC's ruling on

Page 742

his request to qualify for IGT. Boykins is not asserting that the DOC deprived him of IGT he had previously earned, as to which he would have a liberty interest. Just as a writ of habeas corpus has no application to a sentence a prisoner has not begun to serve, Heflin [v. United States, 358 U.S. 415, 79 S.Ct. 451, 3 L.Ed.2d 407 (1959)], neither does the writ have application to IGT Boykins has not begun to earn. Because Boykins does not have liberty interest in the DOC's ruling on his application for IGT, the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in concluding that the circuit court correctly treated his petition for a writ of certiorari as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

". . . .

". . . In this case, Boykins's petition was correctly labeled as a petition for a writ of certiorari, but incorrectly reviewed as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. It cannot be reviewed as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus because it does not seek relief from a restraint on any liberty Boykins has at present.

"Moreover, we note that the DOC, as stated in Ala.Code 1975, § 14-1-1.2, is an `administrative department responsible for administering and exercising direct and effective control over penal and corrections institutions throughout this state.' (Emphasis added.) Ala.Code 1975, § 41-22-3(1), defines `agency' as `[e]very board, bureau, commission, department, officer, or other administrative office or unit of the state.' (Emphasis added.) Accordingly, the DOC is an administrative agency that is within the scope of the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act, Ala.Code 1975, § 41-22-1 et seq. (`the Act'). The appropriate remedy to review the actions of administrative agencies is an appeal made in accordance with § 41-22-20(a) of the Act. However, pursuant to § 41-22-3(9)(g)(1), as noted in Cox [v. State, 628 So.2d 1075...

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9 practice notes
  • Block v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, CR-04-1417.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 26, 2005
    ...this appeal. See Jacobs v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 900 So.2d 485 (Ala.Crim.App. 2004); Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739 (Ala.Crim.App.2004). Accordingly, we transfer this appeal to that APPEAL TRANSFERRED. McMILLAN, P.J., and WISE, J., concur; SHAW, J., dissents,......
  • State v. Isbell, 1061115.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 30, 2007
    ...variety of questions that potentially can arise in relation to criminal proceedings. Cf. Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739, 743-44 (Ala. Crim.App.2004) (Shaw, J., dissenting) (explaining that the "Court of Criminal Appeals is well suited to review" Department of Correct......
  • Austin v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, CR-06-0505.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • April 27, 2007
    ...omitted.) Cf. Jacobs v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 900 So.2d 485 (Ala.Crim.App.2004); Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739 (Ala. Crim.App.2004) (both holding that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals had jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the challenged decision was ......
  • Joseph W. Hutchinson Iii v. State (in Re State v. Medell Banks, 1091018.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 30, 2010
    ...variety of questions that potentially can arise in relation to criminal proceedings. Cf. Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739, 743–44 (Ala.Crim.App.2004) (Shaw, J., dissenting) (explaining that the ‘Court of Criminal Appeals is well suited to review’ Department of Correcti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Block v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, CR-04-1417.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 26, 2005
    ...this appeal. See Jacobs v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 900 So.2d 485 (Ala.Crim.App. 2004); Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739 (Ala.Crim.App.2004). Accordingly, we transfer this appeal to that APPEAL TRANSFERRED. McMILLAN, P.J., and WISE, J., concur; SHAW, J., dissents,......
  • State v. Isbell, 1061115.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 30, 2007
    ...variety of questions that potentially can arise in relation to criminal proceedings. Cf. Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739, 743-44 (Ala. Crim.App.2004) (Shaw, J., dissenting) (explaining that the "Court of Criminal Appeals is well suited to review" Department of Correct......
  • Austin v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, CR-06-0505.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • April 27, 2007
    ...omitted.) Cf. Jacobs v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 900 So.2d 485 (Ala.Crim.App.2004); Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739 (Ala. Crim.App.2004) (both holding that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals had jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the challenged decision was ......
  • Joseph W. Hutchinson Iii v. State (in Re State v. Medell Banks, 1091018.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 30, 2010
    ...variety of questions that potentially can arise in relation to criminal proceedings. Cf. Collins v. Alabama Dep't of Corrections, 911 So.2d 739, 743–44 (Ala.Crim.App.2004) (Shaw, J., dissenting) (explaining that the ‘Court of Criminal Appeals is well suited to review’ Department of Correcti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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