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Assa'Ad-Faltas v. State

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 6, 2015

Marie Assa'ad-Faltas, MD, MPH, Petitioner,
The State of South Carolina and The City of Columbia, South Carolina, Respondents.


SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Marie Assa'ad-Faltas, proceeding pro se, filed this habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging a 2013 conviction in the Columbia Municipal Court. [ECF No. 1 at 1]. 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 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 respondents to file an answer.

I. Factual Background

The petition seeks habeas relief "from one 11 April 2013 Conviction of Unlawful Acts' and 25 April 2013 Denial of New Trial on said Conviction..." in Municipal Court in Columbia, South Carolina. [ECF No. 1 at 1]. Petitioner alleges the State of South Carolina has discriminatorily denied her the right to appeal the conviction. Id. Petitioner claims that South Carolina Circuit Judge Lee affirmed the conviction, but not the sentence, and denied reconsideration. Id. at 9. Petitioner states that she appealed the conviction to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, which relieved her appellate counsel without her consent and ordered Petitioner to obtain new counsel. Id. at 10. Petitioner argues that her conviction was unconstitutional and requests that the court "grant the writ and reverse the conviction with prejudice." Id. at 13.

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, 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). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the petitioner'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 petitioner 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

It is well-settled that an individual must be "in custody" in order to be eligible for federal habeas corpus relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 238 (1968); Leonard v. Hammond, 804 F.2d 838, 842 (4th Cir. 1986). "In custody" refers not only to physical confinement, but to other types of restraint on liberty such as probation and parole. Wilson v. Flaherty, 689 F.3d 332, 336 (4th Cir. 2012). The "in custody" requirement must be satisfied at the time the petition is filed with the federal district court. Carafas, 391 U.S. at 238; see also Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-91 (1989). Petitioner provides no facts in the pleading to demonstrate that she is in custody as required by § 2254(a). She provided a post office box for her address, and there is no indication the post office box is associated with any jail or prison. Therefore, this court lacks jurisdiction over Petitioner's habeas action and the petition is subject to dismissal.

III. Conclusion

Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that this case be dismissed without prejudice.


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