United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
COREY D. GREENE, Petitioner,
CARLOS HERNANDEZ, Respondent.
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court upon Petitioner's pro
se “Motion to Reconsider, ” filed pursuant to
Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Doc. No. 8).
is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who is serving a
life-sentence. He filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on November 5, 2017,
seeking to have disciplinary convictions dated February 26,
2016, March 4, 2016, and March 18, 2016, vacated and certain
privileges, including good-time credits, restored. (Doc. No.
1.) The Court dismissed the habeas Petition on June 1, 2018
(Doc. No. 5), and Petitioner filed the instant Rule 59(e)
Motion on June 11, 2018 (Doc. No. 8).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court “has the discretion to grant a Rule
59(e) motion only in very narrow circumstances: ‘(1) to
accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to
account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to
correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest
injustice.'” Hill v. Braxton, 277 F.3d
701, 708 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Collison v. Int'l
Chem. Workers Union, 34 F.3d 233, 236 (4th Cir. 1994)).
“Rule 59(e) motions may not be used to make arguments
that could have been made before the judgment was
entered.” Hill, 277 F.3d at 708.
does not contend there has been an intervening change in
controlling law or that he has discovered new evidence not
available at his disciplinary hearings. Nor does he identify
a clear error of law in the Court's Order dismissing his
Petition. Instead he contends the Court's judgment rested
on certain factual errors.
Petitioner disagrees with the Court's holding that the
claims raised in his habeas Petition are not cognizable on
federal habeas review. As noted, the habeas Petition
challenges disciplinary convictions from February and March
2016. (Doc. No. 1.) Among the punishments imposed for the
convictions was revocation of some good-time/gain time
(“sentence reduction”) credits. In its Order
dismissing the Petition, the Court explained that Petitioner
may proceed under § 2254 only to the extent the
disciplinary convictions increased the duration of his
custody. (Doc. No. 5 at 2 (citing Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 79 (2005); Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487-488 (1973)).)
loss of good-time credits would affect the duration of a
prisoner's sentence. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 at 79
(“Because an action for restoration of good-time
credits in effect demands immediate release or a shorter
period of detention, it attacks ‘the very duration of .
. . physical confinement, '. . . and thus lies at
‘the core of habeas corpus[.]'” (quoting
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 487-488)). Petitioner,
however, is serving a life sentence, and under North Carolina
law, sentence reduction credits do not shorten the length of
a life sentence but merely apply to custody status, parole
eligibility, and potential commutation. See Jones v.
Keller, 698 S.E.2d 49 ( N.C. 2010). In other words,
revocation of Petitioner's sentence reduction credits has
not made his sentence for first-degree murder any longer than
it would have been had they not been revoked. Accordingly,
Petitioner may not challenge his February and March 2016
disciplinary proceedings under § 2254. See
contends he is not serving a true life-sentence because he
was sentenced under the Fair Sentencing Act, which provides
that after 20 years the prisoner is eligible for parole.
According to Petitioner, North Carolina Department of Public
Safety rules and policies state disciplinary infractions may
be considered when determining a prisoner's parole
eligibility. Thus, he argues, infractions can lengthen a
prisoner's sentence when he is eligible for parole, and
parole is denied due to those infractions.
contrary, denial of parole does not lengthen a sentence; it
merely means that a sentence is not shortened. Under the Fair
Sentencing Act (“FSA”), a prisoner sentenced to
life in prison for first-degree murder became eligible for a
parole status review after serving 20 years of his sentence.
See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1371(a)(1) (1981)
(amended 1993; repealed 1994). If parole was denied, the
state parole commission was required to review the
prisoner's parole status annually thereafter, until
parole was granted. See id. at § 15A-1371(b)(2)
(repealed 1993). Although the FSA was repealed, the parole
provisions remain applicable to sentences based on offenses,
like Petitioner's, that occurred before October 1, 1994.
See Structured Sentencing Act, ch. 538, sec. 56,
1993 N. C. Sess. Laws.
2008, however, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a
law limiting the frequency of parole reviews for inmates
convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced under the FSA.
See Act of July 18, 2008, 2008 N. C. Sess. Law
2008-133 (H.B. 1624). The new law went into effect on October
1, 2008 and provides for parole status review every three
years. Id. According to Petitioner, he was sentenced
in 1993, which made him eligible for parole status review in
2013 and every three years thereafter. Since Petitioner does
not allege he was granted parole in 2013 or 2016, it may be
inferred that “eligible” for parole does mean
“entitled” to parole.
if Petitioner's February and March 2016 disciplinary
convictions were reversed, it necessarily would lead to
restoration of good-time credits but not to immediate release
from confinement or a shorter stay in prison. At most, it
would mean that at Petitioner's next parole status review
in 2019, the North Carolina parole authorities may, in their
discretion, decide to shorten his prison term by granting him
parole or decline to do so. See § 15A-1371(d)
(describing the parole authority's discretionary powers).
Because Petitioner's claims would not necessarily spell