Wright v. Alaska, No. 19-35543 (9th Cir. 2022)
Nature of Case: Appellant was convicted of a sex offense and required to register. He subsequently moved across state lines and did not register and was indicted for failing to register. Appellant pled guilty and subsequently filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction for the underlying sex offense. The district court denied the petition on the grounds that Appellant was not “in custody” on his prior sex offense. Appellant sought review.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that where an individual is in custody on a failure to register offense, it is “positively and demonstrably related” to the predicate sex offense conviction and thus such individuals are in custody for habeas corpus purposes. The government petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari, which was granted.
In a Per Curiam opinion, the United States Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court reasoned that if an individual was serving a sentence for a federal failure to register offense, due to his state sex offense conviction, that did not render him “in custody” for the purposes of collaterally attacking the state conviction.
The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit to consider its new guidance but expressed no view on “other theories advanced” including Appellant’s theory that his sex offense registration requirements are a restraint on his liberty sufficient to meet the “in custody” requirement.
Appellant now argues that he was “in custody” at the time he filed his habeas petition because he was subject to Tennessee’s sex offender registration requirements, which implement the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (“SORNA”). Appellant argues that Tennessee’s registration requirements constitute “custody” because they impose a severe restraint on his liberty and his obligation to register is “directly attributable to the Alaska judgment of conviction.”
Holding: Rejecting Appellant’s arguments, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the holding of the district court dismissing the habeas petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In so holding, the Court concluded that the connection between Appellant’s Alaska conviction and his registration requirement in Tennessee was “attenuated,” stating “the fact that [Appellant’s] duty to register in Tennessee can be linked back to his Alaska conviction does not render him in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court under § 2254(a).
- 9th Circuit Opinion (2022) | view via Google Scholar
- United States Supreme Court Opinion (2021) | view via Google Scholar
- 9th Circuit Opinion (2020) | view via Google Scholar