Alaska v. Wright, 593 U.S. ___ (2021)
An Alaska jury convicted Wright of 13 counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Wright finished serving his sentence and moved to Tennessee. Once there, he failed to register as a sex offender as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, 34 U.S.C. 20913. Wright pleaded guilty to failure to register and received a sentence of time served plus supervised release. During those federal proceedings, Wright filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Alaska under 28 U.S.C. 2241 and 2254, arguing that the Alaska Supreme Court had unreasonably applied clearly established federal law when it denied his Sixth Amendment claims and affirmed his 2009 state conviction and sentence. The district court denied the motion, reasoning that Wright was not in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court. The Ninth Circuit reversed, reasoning that Wright’s state conviction was “ ‘a necessary predicate’ ” to his federal conviction.
The Supreme Court vacated. Section 2254(a) permits a federal court to entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person “in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court.” A habeas petitioner does not remain “in custody” under a conviction “after the sentence imposed for it has fully expired, merely because of the possibility that the prior conviction will be used to enhance the sentences imposed for any subsequent crimes.” That Wright’s state conviction served as a predicate for his federal conviction did not render him “in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court.” If Wright’s second conviction had been for a state crime, he independently could have satisfied section 2254(a)’s “in custody” requirement, though his ability to attack the first conviction would have been limited.
A section 2254(a) habeas petitioner is not in custody pursuant to a state court judgment when he is charged, in federal court, with failure to register as a sex offender on the basis of a state court sexual abuse conviction, for which his sentence has expired.
|Apr 26, 2021||Petition GRANTED. Judgment VACATED and case REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Opinion per curiam. (Detached Opinion)|
|Apr 19, 2021||DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 4/23/2021.|
|Mar 31, 2021||DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 4/16/2021.|
|Mar 26, 2021||Reply of petitioner Alaska filed.
|Mar 15, 2021||Brief of respondent Sean Wright in opposition filed.
|Feb 12, 2021||Brief amici curiae of States of Indiana, et al. filed.
|Jan 22, 2021||Motion to extend the time to file a response is granted and the time is extended to and including March 15, 2021.|
|Jan 21, 2021||Motion to extend the time to file a response from February 12, 2021 to March 15, 2021, submitted to The Clerk.
|Jan 7, 2021||Petition for a writ of certiorari filed. (Response due February 12, 2021)