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Holcomb v. Vandermosen

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 30, 2014

Dean Alton Holcomb, a/k/a Rabbi Dean Alton Holcomb, Petitioner,
John Vandermosen, Respondent.


SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Dean Alton Holcomb, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is a pretrial detainee at the Greenville County Detention Center ("GCDC") in Greenville, South Carolina. He has submitted this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such petitions for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the petition in this case without prejudice and without requiring the respondent to file an answer.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Petitioner alleges that he was charged with two counts of intimidating court officials and that these charges are "non-bailable." [Entry #1 at 2]. Petitioner states that he filed a motion for a preliminary hearing on August 19, 2014, which is currently pending. Id. at 2. Petitioner also contends that on August 22, 2014, he filed a letter asking for a preliminary hearing, discovery, and a motion for a speedy trial. Id. at 3. He states that this request was denied on August 28, 2014, because he was represented by counsel. Id. Petitioner alleges that he filed a motion to dismiss counsel, a request for a speedy trial, a Rule 5 motion, and a request for a preliminary hearing on September 2, 2014. Id. Petitioner indicates that these filings are currently pending. Id. Petitioner claims that his denial of bail is excessive based on his pending charges and prior criminal history. Id. at 7. Petitioner asks the court to order his release on his own recognizance and to order a preliminary hearing and/or a speedy trial be held by December 1, 2014. Id. at 8.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of this petition pursuant to the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings for the United States District Court, [1] the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, and other habeas corpus statutes. Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

B. Analysis

Petitioner seeks release from the GCDC and for the court to order the state court to provide a preliminary hearing or a speedy trial. [Entry #1 at 8]. Ordinarily, federal habeas corpus relief for a state prisoner is available post-conviction. However, pretrial petitions for habeas corpus are properly brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, "which applies to persons in custody regardless of whether final judgment has been rendered and regardless of the present status of the case pending against him." United States v. Tootle, 65 F.3d 381, 383 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Dickerson v. Louisiana, 816 F.2d 220, 224 (5th Cir. 1987)). Federal habeas relief is available under § 2241 only if exceptional circumstances justify the provision of federal review. Dickerson, 816 F.2d at 228.

In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the Supreme Court held that a federal court should not equitably interfere with state criminal proceedings "except in the most narrow and extraordinary of circumstances." Gilliam v. Foster, 75 F.3d 881, 903 (4th Cir. 1996). The Younger Court noted that courts of equity should not act unless the moving party has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable injury if denied equitable relief. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 43-44 (citation omitted). From Younger and its progeny, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has culled the following test to determine when abstention is appropriate: "(1) there are ongoing state judicial proceedings; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims in the state proceedings." Martin Marietta Corp. v. Maryland Comm'n on Human Relations, 38 F.3d 1392, 1396 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Middlesex County Ethics Comm'n v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)).

Petitioner states that he is currently detained pending disposition of two state criminal charges. Therefore, it appears an ongoing state criminal proceeding exists, satisfying the first part of the test. The second part of the test is met because the Supreme Court has noted that "the States' interest in administering their criminal justice systems free from federal interference is one of the most powerful of the considerations that should influence a court considering equitable types of relief." Kelly v. Robinson, 479 U.S. 36, 49 (1986). The Fourth Circuit has addressed the third criterion in noting "that ordinarily a pending state prosecution provides the accused a fair and sufficient opportunity for vindication of federal constitutional rights.'" Gilliam, 75 F.3d at 904 (quoting Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 124 (1975)). Petitioner can pursue his claims in state court both during and after the disposition of his criminal charges. As Petitioner fails to demonstrate that he has no adequate remedy at law or that he will suffer irreparable injury if denied his requested relief, see Younger, 401 U.S. at 43-44, Petitioner is precluded from federal habeas relief at this time.

In addition, Petitioner has failed to demonstrate exhaustion of state remedies in this case. The requirement that state remedies must be exhausted before filing a federal habeas corpus action is found in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1), which provides that "[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that (A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State...." Although § 2241 itself does not contain an exhaustion requirement, a prisoner must first exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing a claim under that statute. See Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court, 410 U.S. 484, 490-91 (1973); see also McClung v. Shearin, No. 03-6952, 2004 WL 225093, at *1 (4th Cir. Feb. 6, 2004) (citing Carmona v. United States Bureau of Prisons, 243 F.3d 629, 634 (2d Cir. 2001)). Petitioner indicates that he has pending motions in state court addressing the same grounds for relief. Thus, Petitioner fails to state a cognizable claim under, or meet the exhaustion requirement for, a habeas action pursuant to § 2241.

III. Conclusion and Recommendation

Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that the petition in the above-captioned case be dismissed without prejudice and without ...

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