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Odom v. Cannon

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 2, 2018

Christopher Odom, [1] Petitioner,
Sheriff Al Cannon, Respondent.



         A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 was submitted to the court by a local detainee appearing pro se. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the district court. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e), 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).

         I. Factual Background

         Christopher Odom (“Petitioner”) is a pretrial detainee at the Charleston County Detention Center. In the Petition filed in this case, he alleges that he was charged with a crime in violation of his Miranda rights. Petitioner alleges in his one-page Petition that he was not provided with an attorney to represent him at his initial bond hearing and that, therefore, his constitutional rights were violated. These allegations appear to be, essentially, the same allegations that were made in another § 2241 petition that Petitioner previously filed in this court. Odom v. Director, No. 5:17-cv-01906-RMG-KDW. Petitioner does not indicate that he has raised the alleged failure of his counsel to appear or the alleged violation of his Miranda rights with any court in the State of South Carolina although he does assert that he has exhausted his state remedies because the “state court does not allow Petitioner to file writ of habeas corpus.” ECF No. 1. He asks this court to grant him “bond modification immediately.” Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review was made of the pro se Petition filed in this case. The review was conducted pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A, and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).

         This court is required to construe pro se petitions liberally. Such pro se petitions are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a petition 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 petition the petitioner's allegations are assumed to be true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630 n.1 (4th Cir. 2003). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         Furthermore, this court is charged with screening Petitioner's lawsuit to determine if “it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4 of Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; see Rule 1(b) of Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (a district court may apply these rules to a habeas corpus petition not filed pursuant to § 2254). Following the required initial review, it is recommended that the Petition submitted in this case should be summarily dismissed.

         III. Discussion

         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)). Generally, “an attempt to dismiss an indictment or otherwise prevent a prosecution” is not attainable through federal habeas corpus. Id.

         In Younger v. Harris, the United States 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, 401 U.S. at 43-44. 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. Md. Comm'n on Human Relations, 38 F.3d 1392, 1396 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm'n v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)).

         The information contained in the Petition filed in this case, supplemented by public records available online, indicates that an ongoing state criminal proceeding exists. The second criteria has been addressed by the United States Supreme Court's statement 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 Court of Appeals also addressed the third criteria in noting “‘that ordinarily a pending state prosecution provides the accused a fair and sufficient opportunity for vindication of federal constitutional rights.'” Gilliam v. Foster, 75 F.3d 881, 903 (4th Cir. 1996) (quoting Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 124 (1975)). Moreover, this “federal court should not be quick to intervene on bail questions (which depend so much upon a detailed appraisal of particular facts) where [it is possible that some relevant facts have not yet] been presented to the state court in which the prosecution is pending.” United States ex rel. Shakur v. Comm'r of Corr., 306 F.Supp. 507, 508 (S.D.N.Y. 1969).

         Specifically, federal habeas relief is available under ' 2241 only if “special circumstances” justify the provision of federal review. Dickerson, 816 F.2d at 224-26; see also Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court, 410 U.S. 484, 489-90 (1973). While “special circumstances” lacks any precise, technical meaning, courts have looked to whether procedures exist which would protect a petitioner's constitutional rights without pre-trial intervention. Moore v. DeYoung, 515 F.2d 437, 449 (3d Cir. 1975). Thus, where a threat to the petitioner's rights may be remedied by an assertion of an appropriate defense in state court, no special circumstance is shown. Id.; see also Drayton v. Hayes, 589 F.2d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 1979) (double jeopardy claim entitled to pretrial habeas intervention since “the very constitutional right claimed . . . would be violated” if the petitioner were forced to go to trial). Where the right may be adequately preserved by orderly post-trial relief, such as by appeal or collateral review processes, special circumstances are likewise nonexistent. Moore, 515 F.2d at 449; see Mounkes v. Conklin, 922 F.Supp. 1501, 1513 (D. Kan. 1996) (finding that challenges to state bail decisions barred by Younger v. Harris where the claims could be raised in future state court proceedings).

         Petitioner appears to claim that he was improperly given an excessive bond without assistance of counsel. Such claims may be raised by motion in the state court where Plaintiff's criminal charge or charges are pending. If the trial court denies such motion and he is ultimately convicted on the pending charge or charges, he can raise such denial as a ground for relief in a direct appeal and/or in a post-conviction relief application. Additionally, despite Petitioner's assertions to the contrary, a writ of habeas corpus is an available remedy in the South Carolina Supreme Court under the correct circumstances, i.e., “when other remedies, such as PCR, are inadequate or unavailable.” Gibson v. State, 495 S.E.2d 426, 428 (S.C. 1998). As a result, these claims are comparable to the speedy-trial claim that was involved in the Moore case. In Moore, 515 F.2d at 443, the court concluded that the federal court should abstain from considering a speedy-trial claim at the pretrial stage because the claim could be raised at trial and on direct appeal. See United States v. MacDonald,435 U.S. 850 (1978); Dickerson, 816 F.2d at 226-27. Because Petitioner can pursue his claims in state court both during and after trial, he fails to ...

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