Lane v. Williams
455 U.S. 624 (1982)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

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

Lane v. Williams

No. 80-1240

Argued December 1, 1981

Decided March 23, 1982

455 U.S. 624

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

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

Page 455 U. S. 625

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. 455 U. S. 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. 455 U. S. 634.

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.

I

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

Page 455 U. S. 626

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. [Footnote 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

Page 455 U. S. 627

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. [Footnote 2]

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. [Footnote 3] While that appeal was pending,

Page 455 U. S. 628

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. [Footnote 4] While reincarcerated, he filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal court, seeking his "immediate release." App. 65. [Footnote 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. [Footnote 6]

Page 455 U. S. 629

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." Id. at 615. [Footnote 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."

Ibid.

After the Court of Appeals had rendered its decision, respondent Southall was discharged from the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections. [Footnote 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

Page 455 U. S. 630

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 U.S. 914.

II

Respondents claim that their constitutional rights were violated when the trial court accepted their guilty pleas without informing them of the mandatory parole requirement. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the court's failure to advise respondents of this consequence rendered their guilty pleas void, [Footnote 9] respondents could seek to remedy this error in two quite different ways. They might ask the District Court to set aside their convictions and give them an opportunity to plead anew; in that event, they might either plead not guilty and stand trial or they might try to negotiate a different plea bargain properly armed with the information that any sentence they received would include a special parole term. Alternatively, they could seek relief in the nature of "specific enforcement" of the plea agreement as they understood it; in that event, the elimination of the mandatory parole term from their sentences would remove any possible harmful consequence from the trial court's incomplete advice.

If respondents had sought the opportunity to plead anew, this case would not be moot. Such relief would free respondents from all consequences flowing from their convictions, as well as subject them to reconviction with a possibly greater sentence. Cf. North Carolina v. Pearce,395 U. S. 711. Thus, a live controversy would remain to determine whether

Page 455 U. S. 631

a constitutional violation in fact had occurred, and whether respondents were entitled to the relief that they sought. [Footnote 10]

Since respondents had completed their previously imposed sentences, however, they did not seek the opportunity to plead anew. [Footnote 11] Rather, they sought to remedy the alleged constitutional violation by removing the consequence that gave rise to the constitutional harm. In the course of their attack, that consequence expired of its own accord. Respondents are no longer subject to any direct restraint as a result of the parole term. They may not be imprisoned on the lesser showing needed to establish a parole violation than to prove a criminal offense. Their liberty or freedom of movement is not in any way curtailed by a parole term that has expired.

Since respondents elected only to attack their sentences, and since those sentences expired during the course of these proceedings, this case is moot.

"Nullification of a conviction may have important benefits for a defendant . . . , but urging in a habeas corpus proceeding the correction of a sentence already served is another matter."

North Carolina v. Rice,404 U. S. 244, 404 U. S. 248.

The Court of Appeals, relying on Carafas v. LaVallee,391 U. S. 234, concluded that respondents' parole violations had sufficient "collateral effects" to warrant an exercise of federal

Page 455 U. S. 632

habeas corpus relief. In Carafas, we held that an attack on a criminal conviction was not rendered moot by the fact that the underlying sentence had expired. On the basis of New York law, we noted that,

"[i]n consequence of [the petitioner's] conviction, he cannot engage in certain businesses; he cannot serve as an official of a labor union for a specified period of time; he cannot vote in any election held in New York State; he cannot serve as a juror."

Id. at 391 U. S. 237 (footnotes omitted). These substantial civil penalties were sufficient to ensure that the litigant had "a substantial stake in the judgment of conviction which survives the satisfaction of the sentence imposed on him.'" Ibid. (quoting Fiswick v. United States,329 U. S. 211, 329 U. S. 222). In Sibron v. New York,392 U. S. 40, 392 U. S. 57, we stated that

"a criminal case is moot only if it is shown that there is no possibility that any collateral legal consequences will be imposed on the basis of the challenged conviction."

The doctrine of Carafas and Sibron is not applicable in this case. No civil disabilities such as those present in Carafas result from a finding that an individual has violated parole. [Footnote 12] At most, certain nonstatutory consequences may occur; employment prospects, or the sentence imposed in a future criminal proceeding, could be affected. Cf. People v. Halterman, 45 Ill.App.3d 605, 608, 359 N.E.2d 1223, 1225 (1977). [Footnote 13] The discretionary decisions that are made by an

Page 455 U. S. 633

employer or a sentencing judge, however, are not governed by the mere presence or absence of a recorded violation of parole; these decisions may take into consideration, and are more directly influenced by, the underlying conduct that formed the basis for the parole violation. Any disabilities that flow from whatever respondents did to evoke revocation of parole are not removed -- or even affected -- by a District Court order that simply recites that their parole terms are "void." [Footnote 14]

Respondents have never attacked, on either substantive or procedural grounds, the finding that they violated the terms of their parole. Respondent Williams simply sought an order "freeing him from the present control" of the Warden and from "all future liability" under his original sentence; Southall sought his "immediate release" from custody. Through the mere passage of time, respondents have obtained all the relief that they sought. In these circumstances, no live controversy remains.

The Court of Appeals also held that this case was not moot, because it was "capable of repetition, yet evading review."

Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. ICC,219 U. S. 498, 219 U. S. 515.

Page 455 U. S. 634

That doctrine, however, is applicable only when there is "a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party would be subjected to the same action again." Weinstein v. Bradford,423 U. S. 147, 423 U. S. 149; Murphy v. Hunt, ante at 455 U. S. 482. Respondents are now acutely aware of the fact that a criminal sentence in Illinois will include a special parole term; any future guilty plea will not be open to the same constitutional attack. The possibility that other persons may litigate a similar claim does not save this case from mootness.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated. The case should be dismissed as moot.

It is so ordered.

[Footnote 1]

See Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38,

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