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Duran v. Thomas

July 9, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: RENÉE Marie Bumb United States District Judge



1. On January 19, 2010, Petitioner, a pre-trial detainee currently confined at the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing, New Jersey, submitted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and an application to proceed in forma pauperis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The petition, as submitted by Petitioner, asserted jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Docket Entry No. 1. Petitioner requested appointment of counsel and production of all records that had accumulated in the state courts. See Docket Entries Nos. 3 and 4.

2. On March 16, 2010, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Petitioner in forma pauperis status and addressing procedural aspects of Petitioner's pleading. See Docket Entry No. 5.

3. Specifically, the Court observed that -- since Section 2254 is a provision enabling state prisoners to seek post-conviction remedy -- that Section was unavailable to Petitioner as a jurisdictional basis: this was so simply because Petitioner was a pre-trial detainee. See id. at 1. Upon so observing, the Court noted that proper jurisdiction to grant a habeas writ to pre-trial detainees does, nonetheless, exist under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See id. at 2 (citing Moore v. De Young, 515 F.2d 437, 441-42 (3d Cir. 1975)).

4. Therefore, construing Petitioner's pleading as a petition effectively seeking writ of habeas corpus under Section 2241 (and being just mislabeled as a Section 2254 application), the Court addressed the assertions made by Petitioner in light of the requirements articulated in Moore. See id.

5. Specifically, the Court began its discussion by clarifying to Petitioner that:

[(a)] habeas corpus jurisdiction without exhaustion [of state remedies] should not be exercised at the pre-trial stage unless extraordinary circumstances are present . . .; [and]

[(b)] where there are no extraordinary circumstances and where petitioner seeks to litigate the merits of a constitutional defense to a state criminal charge, the district court should exercise its "pre-trial" habeas jurisdiction only if petitioner makes a special showing of the need for such adjudication and has exhausted state remedies.

Id. (citing Moore, 515 F.2d at 443, emphasis supplied).

6. Upon so stating, the Court observed that Petitioner did not allege that he exhausted his state remedies. See id. Indeed, granted Petitioner's pre-trial detainee status, such exhaustion was facially impossible. Therefore, the Court proceeded with examination of Petitioner's pleading in order to determine whether Petitioner asserted extraordinary circumstances warranting excuse of failure to exhaust for the purposes of Section 2241 review, as defined in Moore. See id. Observing that Petitioner alleged no extraordinary circumstances (rather, Petitioner alleged that his criminal charges were based on evidence improperly obtained and that his bail was excessive), the Court concluded that there was no basis for this Court's intervention with Petitioner's currently ongoing state criminal proceeding.*fn1 See id. at 3. The Court, therefore, dismissed Petitioner's pleading for failure to exhaust Petitioner's state remedies. See id. The Court expressed no opinion as to the merits of Petitioner's substantive claim, hence preserving Petitioner's opportunity to raise his habeas challenges upon completion of due exhaustion. See id. at 3-4 (clarifying that Petitioner's application was dismissed without prejudice).

7. While the Court construed Petitioner's application as a petition filed pursuant to Section 2241, the Court --- out of an abundance of caution and in light of the fact that, in Petitioner's pleading, the jurisdictional basis was asserted under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 -- addressed the issue of whether a certificate of appealability should issue. See id. Applying the test articulated in Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000), the Court concluded that no certificate of appealability should be issued because jurists of reason would not find it debatable whether this Court was correct in its procedural ruling.*fn2 See id. at 4.

8. Upon the Court's dismissal of Petitioner's application, the Clerk duly terminated the instant matter on March 17, 2010. On April 5, 2010, Petitioner filed his notice of appeal. See Docket Entry No. 6. However, one month later, that is, on May 4, 2010, the Clerk docketed a submission from Petitioner in which Petitioner sought leave to amend his original application. See Docket Entry No. 8. In light of the Clerk's receipt of Petitioner's submission, this Court directed the Clerk to restore the instant matter to active docket.*fn3 See Docket Entry No. 9.

9. Petitioner's submission asserted that Petitioner erroneously designated his application as a Section 2254 petition, and that the error was a result of Petitioner's accidental use of a pre-printed form prepared by this District for use by pro se litigants seeking habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. See id. at 2. Petitioner clarified that he was still a pre-trial detainee, and his intention was to seek relief under Section 2241. See id. at 1 and 2. Paraphrasing his original assertions, Petitioner alleged that he was "illegally detained[,] and detained in violation of Petitioner['s] 4th and 14th Amendment [rights]." Id. at 2; see also id. at 4 (paraphrasing the same). No statement made in Petitioner's submission asserted extraordinary circumstances of any ...

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