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Carstarphen v. Camden County Correctional Facility Warden

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 19, 2014

FENTON J. CARSTARPHEN, Petitioner,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY WARDEN, Respondent.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner is a pretrial detainee currently detained at the Camden County Correctional Facility in Camden, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with this action that the Court has construed as a habeas petition. Petitioner requests that this Court intervene in his state criminal proceedings and dismiss the case as his constitutional rights have been violated. On August 13, 2014, the Court administratively terminated this federal action as petitioner had failed to pay the $5.00 filing fee or submit a complete application to proceed in forma pauperis. On September 3, 2014, the Court received plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. Petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted based on the information provided therein and the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this case. For the following reasons, the habeas petition will be dismissed without prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

Petitioner states that he was arrested on March 30, 2014, on domestic charges. His wife was the purported victim. He states that the criminal charges he is facing are false and violate his due process rights. Based on petitioner's statements in his habeas petition, it appears as if petitioner was awaiting trial on these domestic charges at the time his filed his habeas petition as he indicates that a trial date was set for August 4, 2014 (petitioner filed this habeas petition in July, 2014). He seeks to have this Court intervene on his behalf in the state court criminal proceedings and dismiss all of the charges against him as they are fraudulent. Petitioner further claims that he has a right to the grand jury minutes.

III. STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

With respect to screening the instant petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2243 provides in relevant part:

A court, justice or judge entertaining an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall forthwith award the writ or issue an order directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted, unless it appears from the application that the applicant or person detained is not entitled thereto.

See also Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases ("If it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner."). As petitioner is proceeding pro se, his petition is held to less stringent standards than those pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Rainey v. Varner, 603 F.3d 189, 198 (3d Cir. 2010) ("It is the policy of the courts to give a liberal construction to pro se habeas petitions.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); United States v. Otero, 502 F.3d 331, 334 (3d Cir. 2007) ("we construe pro se pleadings liberally.") (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Nevertheless, "a district court is authorized to dismiss a [habeas] petition summarily when it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court[.]" Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U.S. 314, 320 (1996).

IV. DISCUSSION

The Clerk initially characterized this case as a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. However, because petitioner is seeking pretrial relief, it is more appropriate to characterize it as a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Smith v. Pennsylvania State Attorney Gen., No. 11-1813, 2011 WL 6012976, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 3, 2011) (holding that as a pretrial detainee, petitioner was not in custody pursuant to a state court judgment, therefore petition cannot proceed under § 2254, but can under § 2241), report and recommendation adopted by, 2011 WL 6012933 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2011); Avila v. New Jersey, No. 07-3387, 2007 WL 2682937, at *4 n.4 (D.N.J. Sept. 6, 2007). Indeed, federal courts have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to issue a writ of habeas corpus before a criminal judgment is entered against that individual in state court. See Moore v. De Young, 515 F.2d 437, 441-42 (3d Cir. 1975); see also Duran v. Thomas, 393 F.Appx. 3, 4 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) ("[S]ection 2241 authorizes a federal court to issue a writ of habeas corpus to any pretrial detainee who is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Addressing whether and when a federal court should ever grant a pretrial writ of habeas corpus to a pretrial state detainee, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held:

(1) federal courts have "pre-trial" habeas corpus jurisdiction;
(2) that jurisdiction without exhaustion should not be exercised at the pre-trial stage unless extraordinary circumstances are present[; and]
(3) 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 "pretrial" habeas jurisdiction only if petitioner makes a special showing ...

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