United States District Court, D. Minnesota
E. Fearon, GRAY, PLANT, MOOTY, MOOTY & BENNETT, P.A., for
petitioner Donald Cody Tarbell.
T. Jackola, ANOKA COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for
respondent Vicki Janssen.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
T. SCHULTZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Donald Cody Tarbell pleaded guilty in 2014 to one count of
criminal vehicular homicide. “The district court
accepted Tarbell's guilty plea and sentenced him to 81
months but stayed the sentence for ten years. As conditions
of the stayed sentence, Tarbell was ordered to serve 365 days
in the county jail, placed on probation for ten years, and
ordered to pay a fine and restitution.” State v.
Tarbell, No. A18-0349, 2018 WL 4558238, at *1
(Minn.Ct.App. Sept. 24, 2018). “The conditions also
prohibited him from taking mood-altering chemicals, using or
possessing a firearm, driving without a valid license or
insurance, or receiving a traffic-related charge, including
any misdemeanor or serious traffic violations.”
months after being released from jail, Tarbell violated the
conditions of his probation by driving a vehicle without
insurance and without a valid driver's license.
Id. “The district court stated that it could
execute the 81-month sentence based on Tarbell's
probation violation but instead executed 30 days in jail, as
an intermediate sanction, to be served in three ten-day
increments.” Id. The sentence also came with a
stern warning from the district court: “Mr. Tarbell,
don't be back in front of me even with a misdemeanor
conviction for something. . . . Succeed. Don't be
Tarbell came back. In September 2017, Tarbell tested positive
for marijuana use. See Tarbell, 2018 WL 4558238, at
*1. This time, the district court revoked Tarbell's
probation and executed the 81-month sentence (with credit for
time spent in jail), which Tarbell continues to serve today.
matter is before the Court on Tarbell's petition for a
writ of habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In
his habeas petition, Tarbell asserts a single ground for
relief: “In revoking probation the district court erred
in determining the need for confinement outweighed the
policies favoring probation when appellant had reformed his
life but had committed two technical probation
violations.” Petition at 5 [ECF No. 1]. This Court
finds that Tarbell's claim is not cognizable on habeas
review insofar as it seeks relief under state law, and that
Tarbell has failed to fully exhaust state remedies with
respect to any claim arising under federal law. Accordingly,
it is recommended that Tarbell's habeas petition be
denied and this matter be dismissed.
petition lays at the intersection of two core principles of
federal habeas corpus jurisprudence. First, “it is not
the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine
state-court determinations on state-law questions. In
conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to
deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States.” Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991); accord 28
U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). Put simply, the Court cannot grant
Tarbell's habeas petition on the basis that the Minnesota
courts erred in applying Minnesota law.
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1):
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court
shall not be granted unless it appears that -
(A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the
courts of the State; or
(B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective
process; or (ii) circumstances exist that render such process
ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant.
a federal court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner,
the prisoner must exhaust his remedies in state court. In
other words, the state prisoner must give the state courts an
opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those
claims to a federal court in a habeas petition.”
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 843
(1999). This “fair opportunity” requires the
invocation of “one complete round of the State's
established appellate review process, ” including a
petition for discretionary review before the State's
highest court. Id. at 845.
sought review from the Minnesota Supreme Court following the
revocation of his term of probation (and affirmance of that
revocation by the Minnesota Court of Appeals). See
ECF No. 24-2 at 57-67 (petition for review). In his petition
for review, Tarbell sought relief on one ground: that the
revocation of his probation and subsequent imposition of an
81-month term of imprisonment was contrary to the Minnesota