Argued: March 2, 2018
Circuit Court for Cecil County Case No. 07-K-06-000806
Barbera, C.J., Greene Adkins McDonald Watts Hotten Getty, JJ.
BARBERA, C. JUDGE
consider in this case whether a trial court or, as here, an
appellate court is divested of jurisdiction over a
timely-filed petition for post-conviction relief if, during
litigation of the petition, the petitioner is no longer
"in custody" for purposes of the Maryland Uniform
Postconviction Procedure Act ("UPPA"), Maryland
Code Annotated, Criminal Procedure ("CP")
§§ 7-101 to 7-109. We hold that jurisdiction under
the UPPA is determined upon the filing of the petition and,
barring a procedural default by the petitioner, is not
defeated upon the petitioner's release from custody prior
to completion of full review, including any appellate review,
of the case. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court
of Special Appeals, which came to the opposite conclusion.
Background and Procedural History
a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Cecil County,
Petitioner William Kranz was convicted of two counts each of
first-degree assault and reckless endangerment. On July 31,
2009, the court sentenced Petitioner to ten years'
imprisonment, five of which were suspended, and three
years' supervised probation. On direct appeal, the Court
of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction.
Kranz v. State, No. 1548 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Nov. 9,
2010), cert. denied, 418 Md. 191 (2011).
February 17, 2012, Petitioner filed a timely petition for
post-conviction relief.He contended that the State had
committed a violation under Brady v. Maryland, 373
U.S. 83 (1963), entitling him to a new trial. Following
denial of relief by the post-conviction court, Petitioner
filed, on June 19, 2013, an application for leave to appeal.
On April 7, 2015, Petitioner completed his sentence,
including the three-year probationary period.
August 31, 2016, more than three years after Petitioner filed
the application for leave to appeal, the Court of Special
Appeals granted the application and placed the case on its
regular appeals docket. Petitioner briefed the merits of his
claim that the State had committed a Brady
violation. The State, in addition to responding to the merits
of that claim, included a motion to dismiss the appeal. In
support of dismissal, the State made two arguments: First,
Petitioner was no longer incarcerated, on parole, or on
probation, and therefore was not "in custody" for
purposes of CP § 7-101 of the UPPA, rendering the case
moot; second, Petitioner's loss of "in-custody"
status divested the Court of Special Appeals of jurisdiction
to consider the appeal.
Court of Special Appeals issued a reported opinion granting
the State's motion to dismiss the appeal. Kranz v.
State, 233 Md.App. 600 (2017). The intermediate
appellate court opted not to address the State's mootness
argument. The court instead rested its dismissal of the
appeal on its interpretation of the UPPA, agreeing with the
State that the court lost jurisdiction to entertain the
appeal once Petitioner was no longer in custody. Id.
reaching that decision, the Court of Special Appeals relied
principally on McMannis v. State, 311 Md. 534
(1988), and Obomighie v. State, 170 Md.App. 708
(2006). Kranz, 233 Md.App. at 607-10. We shall
discuss both cases in detail below. It is enough to note at
this point that each court-this Court in McMannis
and the Court of Special Appeals in Obomighie-held
that full expiration of the petitioners' sentences
divested the court of jurisdiction. See McMannis,
311 Md. at 536; Obomighie, 170 Md.App. at 710. In
light of those decisions, the Court of Special Appeals held
in the present case that it was divested of jurisdiction when
Petitioner completed his period of probation. 233 Md.App. at
the Court of Special Appeals' dismissal of the appeal,
Petitioner sought further review in this Court. We issued a
writ of certiorari to consider whether the full expiration of
a petitioner's sentence during the litigation of a
timely-filed post-conviction petition divests the courts of
jurisdiction over the action. Kranz v. State, 456
Md. 254 (2017).
The Parties' Contentions
argues that appellate courts retain jurisdiction to review
petitions for post-conviction relief, even if the petitioner
is no longer in custody at the time of review, so long as the
petitioner filed the petition while "in custody, "
as that term is employed in the UPPA. Such a rule, in
Petitioner's view, is consistent with the holding of this
Court in McMannis v. State, 311 Md. 534 (1988), is
supported by the United States Supreme Court's holding in
Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234 (1968), and would
harmonize the various provisions of the UPPA.
State disagrees not only with Petitioner's read of the
UPPA but also his assessment of the impact of
McMannis and Carafas. The State also looks
to Obomighie v. State, 170 Md.App. 708 (2006), upon
which the Court of Special Appeals relied in deciding the
case at bar. Before considering the parties' respective
views of those three cases, we pause to summarize them. We
also refer to Parker v. Ellis, 362 U.S. 574 (1960),
a case that preceded Carafas and informed the
Supreme Court's decision in that case.
begin with Carafas. Petitioner James Carafas was
tried in a New York state court, convicted of certain crimes,
and sentenced to a term of incarceration. 391 U.S. at 235.
While incarcerated, he pursued a direct appeal and state
court collateral review, without success, id. at
235-36, then filed a federal habeas corpus petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2254, id. at 236. The federal district
court dismissed the petition on the merits, and the Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal.
Carafas then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the
United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the
petition and issued the writ on October 16, 1967. By then,
Carafas had served his sentence and, as of March 6, 1967, was
no longer on parole. Id.
York argued that the case was moot because Carafas, having
fully served his sentence, no longer was eligible for habeas
corpus relief. For that proposition, New York evidently
relied on a per curiam opinion of the Court, Parker v.
Ellis, 362 U.S. 574 (1960). That case involved a federal
habeas corpus petition brought by Parker, who was then
serving a sentence for a conviction in a Texas state court.
Id. at 574. The federal district court dismissed the
petition, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
affirmed. Id. The Supreme Court granted Parker's
petition for writ of certiorari, but before the case could be
heard, Parker completed his sentence and was released from
prison. Id. at 574-75.
Parker Court held that the expiration of the
petitioner's sentence rendered the case moot, leaving the
Court "without jurisdiction to deal with the merits of
petitioner's claim." Id. Over a vigorous
dissent by Chief Justice Warren, joined by Justices Black,
Douglas, and Brennan, the Court remanded the case to the
Court of Appeals with the direction "to vacate its
judgment and to direct the District Court to vacate its order
and dismiss the application." Id. at 576. Chief
Justice Warren reasoned that the majority too narrowly
construed the text and purpose of the federal habeas statute,
ignoring not only the spirit of the "Great Writ"
but its broad statutory language to grant relief "as law
and justice require." Id. at 582-86 (dissenting
opinion) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2243). The inequities
highlighted in the Parker dissent would frame the
rationale of a unanimous Court eight years later in
Carafas, the Supreme Court first rejected New
York's claim that the case was moot. 391 U.S. at 237. The
Court noted that because of his conviction, Carafas
"cannot engage in certain businesses; he cannot serve as
an official of a labor union for a specified period of time;
he cannot vote in any election held in New York State; he
cannot serve as a juror." Id. (footnotes
omitted). Given those "'disabilities or burdens
[that] may flow from' petitioner's conviction, he has
'a substantial stake in the judgment of conviction which
survives the satisfaction of the sentence imposed on
him.'" Id. (quoting Fiswick v. United
States, 329 U.S. 211, 222 (1946)).
York further argued that because appellate review had not yet
concluded, Carafas's release from any form of custody
before securing Supreme Court review of his case divested the
Supreme Court of jurisdiction to address the merits of his
claim. Id. at 238. The Court rejected that argument
as well. Id. The Court accepted that Carafas was no
longer in custody as defined by the federal habeas statute.
The Court nonetheless concluded that the legislative history
of that statute,  coupled with its provision directing
courts to "dispose of the matter as law and justice
require, " 28 U.S.C. § 2243, contemplate relief
"other than immediate release from physical
custody." 391 U.S. at 238-39. The Court noted, too, that
Carafas had endured lengthy delays in obtaining justice and
"should not be thwarted now and required to bear the
consequences of [an] assertedly unlawful conviction simply
because the path has been so long that he has served his
sentence." Id. at 239-40.
for our purposes, the holding of Carafas is not
based on or limited to the facts presented in that case. The
holding of Carafas is much broader, establishing
that once federal jurisdiction attaches by filing a habeas
petition, the federal trial and appellate courts retain
jurisdiction to entertain the petition, even if at some point
during the litigation the petitioner is no longer "in
custody" for purposes of that statute. Id. at
Court relied to a certain extent on Carafas in
deciding McMannis. In 1970, McMannis pled guilty to
charges of felony storehouse breaking and theft. 311 Md. at
536. He completed the entirety of his sentence, including a
period of probation, and sometime later, traveled to West
Virginia. Id. at 536-37. There, McMannis, over the
span of several years, was charged and convicted of various
separate crimes. Id. at 537. He eventually was
sentenced, based in part on a West Virginia conviction of
sexual assault, to life imprisonment under West
Virginia's recidivist statute. West Virginia used
McMannis's Maryland conviction as "a necessary
predicate" for his enhanced sentence. Id. at
attempted to have the West Virginia sentence reduced by
challenging the validity of the earlier Maryland conviction.
Id. at 535-36. He filed a petition for
post-conviction relief in a Maryland circuit court under
Maryland Code Annotated, Article 27, §645A-the
predecessor to the UPPA-and prevailed on the merits of the
petition. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, holding that
the case was moot. Id. at 536.
Court affirmed the intermediate appellate court, though on
different grounds. Id. We looked to Carafas
and, as the Supreme Court had done, held that McMannis's
case was not moot. We reasoned that "[i]f Petitioner is
correct in his assertion that his guilty plea in Maryland in
1970 was not knowing and voluntary, it is clear that he
suffers anew from that constitutional infirmity by the
imposition of an enhanced sentence in West Virginia that is
dependent upon the earlier [Maryland] conviction."
Id. at 538-39 (citing Carafas, 391 U.S. at
turned to the State's alternative argument that the
post-conviction court had no jurisdiction to entertain
McMannis's petition because at the time of filing, he was
no longer in custody for purposes of the post-conviction
statute. Id. at 539. That argument was based on the
text of then-Article 27, § 645A(a), the predecessor
statute to CP §§ 7-101 and 7-102. Section 645A(a)
provided that "[a]ny person convicted of a crime and
either incarcerated under sentence of . . . imprisonment or
on parole or probation . . . may institute a proceeding under
this subtitle." See McMannis, 311 Md. at 539;
see also id. (referring to that portion of §
645A(a) as the "'custody' requirement").
McMannis argued in response that, notwithstanding he was not
in custody when he filed the petition, his petition was
timely under a separate provision of the post-conviction
statute-§ 645A(e), which allowed a petition to be filed
"at any time." 311 Md. at 539-40.
Court rejected McMannis's argument, concluding that the
custody requirement in § 645A(a) was
"jurisdictional" and therefore
"supersede[d]" the language in § 645A(e) that
permitted the filing of a post-conviction petition "at
any time." Id. at 539-41. We noted that while a
petition could be "filed at any time, " the
petitioner must be in custody at the time of filing.
Id. at 541. Given McMannis was not in custody when
he filed the ...