Argued: January 24, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia, at Norfolk. Arenda L. Wright Allen,
District Judge. (2:12-cv-00699-AWA-RJK)
Matthew Robert McGuire, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant.
Arthur Coggeshall, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellee.
R. Herring, Attorney General, Trevor S. Cox, Acting Solicitor
General, Katherine Quinlan Adelfio, Assistant Attorney
General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA,
Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant.
WILKINSON, NIEMEYER, and MOTZ, Circuit Judges.
NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge.
Blount was sentenced by a Virginia state court in March 2008
to six consecutive terms of life imprisonment plus 118
years' imprisonment for nonhomicide crimes that he
committed when he was 15 years old. Under Virginia law,
Blount was subject to a geriatric release program, under
which he would have been eligible for conditional release
once he turned 60 years old. See Va. Code Ann.
the Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560
U.S. 48 (2010), which prohibited juvenile offenders convicted
of nonhomicide crimes from being sentenced to life without
parole, Blount filed an application for a writ of habeas
corpus in the district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254, arguing that he was entitled to a new sentencing
hearing under Graham. While the application was
pending, however, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued
Blount a partial pardon, reducing his sentence to 40
years' imprisonment. The Director of the Virginia
Department of Corrections ("the Commonwealth")
accordingly requested that Blount's habeas application be
dismissed as moot.
district court denied the Commonwealth's motion and
granted Blount habeas relief, ordering (in two separate
orders) that he be resentenced in light of Graham.
On appeal, the Commonwealth contends that the district court
erred in several respects, including by (1) relying on our
decision in LeBlanc v. Mathena, 841 F.3d 256 (4th
Cir. 2016) (affirming the grant of habeas relief in similar
circumstances), even after that decision was reversed by the
Supreme Court in Virginia v. LeBlanc, 137 S.Ct. 1726
(2017) (per curiam); and (2) refusing to dismiss Blount's
habeas application as moot following Governor McDonnell's
partial pardon as required by our decision in United
States v. Surratt, 855 F.3d 218 (4th Cir. 2017) (en
banc), and instead electing to follow the dissenting opinion
in Surratt as more persuasive.
agree with the Commonwealth's position and accordingly
vacate the relevant orders of the district court granting
habeas relief and remand with instructions to dismiss