United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
JEREMIAH C. LYNCH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case comes before the Court on Petitioner Anthony
Wright's application for writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Wright is a state prisoner proceeding pro
Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
reviewing the motion and supporting account statement, I find
that Wright has sufficiently shown he cannot afford to pay
all costs that may be associated with this action. The motion
to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.
28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition
alleges the 4-year prison sentence he received on April 6,
2018, in Montana's Second Judicial District, Silver Bow
County, for Assault on a Peace Officer, violates his Eighth
Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
because he did not receive proper credit for the time he
served prior to sentencing. See, Pet. (Doc. 1 at 2-3; 4,
¶ 13(A)). As explained below, Wright's petition
should be denied.
29, 2014, following an investigatory stop for suspected
Driving Under the Influence, Wright was arrested by law
enforcement officials in Butte, Montana. During his
transport to the detention center, Wright assaulted an
officer. Wright was initially held on $25, 000 bail. In
August of 2014, Wright's bail was reduced to $5, 000.
Wright subsequently posted bond and was released. Wright
v. Salmonsen, OP 18-0354, Or. at 2 (Mont. October 10,
2018). In December of 2014, Wright was arrested in Oregon.
March of 2015, Wright was convicted of Assault in Oregon. He
remained in custody there until September 21, 2017.
Id. That same day, Wright was apparently arrested
for violating the conditions of his release on the Montana
Assault charge pursuant to a detainer and returned to Montana
where he remained in custody until his April 5, 2018,
sentencing in the Second Judicial District. Id. at
1. At sentencing, Wright was awarded 251-days of jail credit
which included the time served following his initial arrest
and posting of bond, (June 29, 2014 to August 22, 2014), and
his return to Montana state custody following the completion
of his Oregon sentence (September 21, 2017 to April 5, 2018).
his sentencing, Wright filed a petition for habeas relief in
the Montana Supreme Court. Wright argued that due to a
detainer out of Montana, he was not granted “outside
the fence access” or allowed into any programs while
serving his Oregon sentence. Id. Due to this
deprivation of freedom, Wright argued he was entitled to more
credit than the 251-days granted to him. Id.
the Montana Supreme Court noted there was no case directly on
point, it reasoned that Wright was not due any additional
credit because the Oregon incarceration was unrelated to his
Montana sentence and conviction. Id. at 2-3.
Accordingly, because Wright failed to establish his
incarceration was illegal, he was not entitled to habeas
corpus relief. Id. at 3, citing Mont. Code Ann.
extent that Wright claims the Montana courts erred in the
application of state law, the claim is not cognizable in
federal habeas. Even if Wright had been sentenced in
violation of state law, “only noncompliance with
federal law… renders a State's criminal
judgment susceptible to collateral attack in the federal
courts.” Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5
(2010)(per curiam)(emphasis in original). “[F]ederal
habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state
law.” Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780
(1990). Additionally, the Montana Supreme Court is the
highest authority in the land on the content and meaning of
Montana law. See e.g., Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S.
62, 67-68 (1991)(“Today we reemphasize that it is not
the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state
court determinations on state law questions.”). The
Montana Supreme Court held Wright's sentence did not
violate state law, therefore, it does not violate state law.
extent that Wright argues the denial of additional credit for
time served constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in
violation of the Eighth Amendment, he likewise does not make
a tenable claim. A criminal sentence that is “grossly
disproportionate” to the crime for which a defendant is
convicted may violate the Eight Amendment. Lockyer v.
Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 72 (2003). Outside of the capital
punishment context, the Eighth Amendment only prohibits
sentences that are extreme and grossly disproportionate to
the crime. Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 1001
(1991). Such instances are “exceedingly rare” and
occur only in “extreme” cases. Rummel v.
Estelle, 445 U.S. 263, 272 (1980). ...