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Hartford v. Davis

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

August 29, 2019

DAVIS, Respondent.


          Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge

         The District Court has referred this action to United States Magistrate Judge Theresa L. Fricke. On August 19, 2019, petitioner Ira Ray Dean Hartford, IV, a pre-trial detainee housed at Grays Harbor County Jail, filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Dkt. 1-1. Having reviewed the petition it appears plaintiff's petition, brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, is premature as he is a pretrial detainee and has not yet been convicted. Moreover, even construing the petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 it would appear to be inappropriate for the Court to intervene in this case under the Younger abstention doctrine. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Therefore, the Court directs petitioner to file a response to this order or an amended pleading by September 30, 2019.

         I. Background

         Petitioner alleges violation of his Due Process rights related to his pending state criminal proceedings. Dkt. 1-1. Petitioner contends between September 2018 and February 2019, Grays Harbor “Municipality” “held [him] invalid without seeing a judge for 121 days after five arraignments two-3.5 hearings, two (2) pretrial hearings, which took 60 days and then jailed [his] being for 121 additional days without seeing a judge. Id., at 4-5. He contends video surveillance shows “he did not act disruptive or defiant.” Id. Although not raised as a separate ground in his petition, petitioner also mentions ineffective assistance of counsel, double jeopardy, cruel and unusual punishment, and prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, although the factual basis for these claims is unclear. Id., at 4, 7-11. Petitioner appears to seek release from custody as relief. Id.

         II. Screening

         Under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 cases, the Court is required to perform a preliminary review of a habeas petition. The Court should dismiss a habeas petition before the respondent is ordered to file a response, if it “plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4 also applies to habeas petitions brought under § 2241. See Rule1(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 cases (“The district court may apply any and all of these rules to a habeas corpus petition not covered” by 28 U.S.C. § 2254.).

         III. Discussion

         A. § 2254 or § 2241

         Petitioner has filed a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. If relief is sought under § 2254 the Court may consider the merits of a the habeas petition only if petitioner can show that his state judgment and conviction violate his federal constitutional rights and only after he has fully and fairly presented the alleged violations to the Washington State Supreme Court. In essence, a § 2254 federal habeas petition allows a federal court to provide a state prisoner with post-conviction collateral relief. Section 2254 habeas relief is not available here because it appears petitioner has not yet been convicted, has not yet been sentenced, and has not yet sought review of his conviction or sentence in the state courts. See Davis v. Silva, 511 F.3d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir. 2008) (habeas relief not available where petitioner has not appealed his federal constitutional violations to the highest state court).

         Even if petitioner was convicted and sentenced in the few days that have passed since the Court received his habeas petition, the petition would be premature because he has not yet presented any of his federal claims to the state courts via a direct appeal or by filing a state post-conviction petition for collateral relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 515 (1982) (A federal court may not consider the merits of a state prisoner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus unless the prisoner has first exhausted his available state court remedies).

         However, because petitioner proceeds pro se, the Court will also consider and screen his pleadings under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which permits federal courts to grant relief to a pretrial detainee held “in custody in violation of the Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); see also McNeely v. Blanas, 336 F.3d 822, 824 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2003).

         B. Exhaustion

         “[A] state prisoner must normally exhaust available state judicial remedies before a federal court will entertain his petition for habeas corpus.” Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971). Petitioner's claims will be considered exhausted only after “the state courts [have been afforded] a meaningful opportunity to consider allegations of legal error without interference from the federal judiciary.” Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254, 257 (1986). “[S]tate prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999).

         Although there is no exhaustion requirement mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held exhaustion is necessary as a matter of comity unless special circumstances warrant federal intervention prior to a state criminal trial. Carden v. Montana, 626 F.2d 82, 83-84 (9th Cir. 1980); see Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Petitioner suggests that he has presented his federal constitutional or statutory claims in the ongoing criminal proceedings against him and that his appeal is still pending in the Washington State Court of Appeals. Dkt. 1-1, at 5. Petitioner has not shown special circumstances that would potentially justify federal intervention in this case. Petitioner refers generally to judicial and ...

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