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Mitchell v. Berdwik

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 14, 2017

MARCELLUS MITCHELL, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD H. BERDWIK, ET AL., Respondents.

          OPINION

          KEVIN McNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The petitioner, Marcellus Mitchell, is a pretrial detainee lodged at the Passaic County Jail. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For the following reasons, this Court will summarily dismiss the habeas petition without prejudice.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW: SCREENING

         With respect to screening the 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2243. As petitioner is proceeding pro se, his petition is held to less stringent standards than those pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Rainey v. Vomer, 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, 92 S .Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Mitchell names the following as respondents in this action: (1) Richard H. Berdwik - Sheriff; (2) Michael Tolerico - Warden Passaic County Jail; (3) Judge Ronald D. Wigler; and (4) Carolyn A. Murray - Prosecutor. The sole proper respondent in this § 2241 action is the custodian, i.e., the warden of the institution where Mr. Mitchell is being held, Mr. Tolerico. See Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 434-35 (2004). Therefore, the habeas petition will be dismissed with prejudice as to respondents Berdwik, Wigler and Murray.

         Mr. Mitchell brings three claims in his habeas petition as a pretrial detainee. First, he claims that the state criminal litigation against him is vexatious because it lacks legal merit and is not founded on probable cause. More specifically, he attacks an identification of himself and claims that the prosecutor knew that there was no eyewitness placing him at the crime scene. Second, Mr. Mitchell asserts that there has been an inordinate delay by the state in processing his claims, most notably his claim challenging the suggestiveness and credibility of the evidence. Finally, Mr. Mitchell claims that the prosecutor has acted in bad faith by fabricating evidence against him.

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated the required elements to obtain pretrial habeas relief as follows:

(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 of the ...

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