United States District Court, D. Delaware
Bruinton. Pro se Petitioner.
Gregory E. Smith, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware
Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is an Application for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
("Petition") filed by Petitioner Terry Bruinton
("Petitioner"). (D.I. 1) The State filed an Answer
in opposition. (D.I. 7) For the reasons discussed, the Court
will deny the Petition.
21, 2014, Petitioner pled guilty to drug dealing. (D.I. 7 at
2) The Superior Court immediately sentenced him to eight
years at Level V incarceration, with credit for 26 days
previously served, suspended after six months for three
months at Level IV home confinement, followed by one year at
Level III probation. (Id.)
23, 2014, Petitioner pled guilty to criminal trespass and
offensive touching. (D.I. 7 at 2-3) That same day, the
Superior Court sentenced him as follows: (1) criminal
trespass - one year at Level V, suspended for one year at
Level III; and (2) offensive touching - 30 days at Level V.
(D.I. 7 at 3)
February 19, 2015, Delaware Department of Correction
officials filed an administrative warrant charging Petitioner
with a violation of probation ("VOP") with respect
to the three convictions listed above. (D.I. 7 at 3) A VOP
report was filed on March 4, 2015. (D.I. 9-10 at 1-10) On
March 26, 2015, die Superior Court found that Petitioner
committed a VOP for all three convictions and sentenced him
as follows: (1) offensive touching- discharged as unimproved;
(2) drug dealing - seven years at Level V, suspended after 18
months for one year at Level III; and (3) criminal trespass -
one year at Level V, suspended for one year at Level III.
(D.I. 7 at 3; D.I. 9-11 at 1-3) Petitioner appealed, and the
Delaware Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as untimely on
May 28, 2015. See Bruinton v. State, 115 A.3d 1214
(Table), 2015 WL 3454613 Del. May 28, 2015).
federal court may consider a habeas petition filed by a state
prisoner only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Claims based on
errors of state law are not cognizable on federal habeas
review, and federal courts cannot re-examine state court
determinations of state law issues. See Mullaney v.
Wilbur, 421 U.S. 684, 691 (1975) ("[s]tate courts
are the ultimate expositors of state law"); Estelle
v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) (holding that
claims based on errors of state law are not cognizable on
sole ground for relief, Petitioner asserts that his March
2015 VOP sentence did not comply with Delaware's
violation of probation policy. (D.I. 3 at 3) He contends that
his sentence of 18 months at Level V was improper because an
offender can only be sentenced to a higher level if he
committed a new charge or had aggravating circumstances, and
his VOP was due to violating his curfew. (D.I. 1 at 5) Since
this argument challenges a state court sentencing decision
based on state law, it does not assert an issue cognizable on
federal habeas review. See Luckett v. Carroll, 2005
WL 2293911, at *6 n.7 (D. Del. Sept. 21, 2005) (refusing to
consider claim that technical VOP did not warrant
re-imposition of suspended prison sentence, for failing to
allege federal question); see also McCleaf v.
Carroll, 416 F.Supp.2d 283, 288 n. 3 (D. Del. 2006).
Accordingly, the Court will deny the Petition in its entirety
for failing to present a proper basis for federal habeas
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
district court issuing a final order denying a § 2254
petition must also decide whether to issue a certificate of
appealability. See 3d Cir. L.A.R. 22.2 (2011). A
certificate of appealability is appropriate when a petitioner
makes a "substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right" by demonstrating "that
reasonable jurists would find the district court's
assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or
wrong." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); see also Slack
v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
Court has concluded that the Petition does not warrant
relief, and reasonable jurists would not find this conclusion
to be debatable. Accordingly, the Court ...