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Frasier v. Cannon

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 3, 2018

Edward J. Frasier, Petitioner,
Sheriff Al Cannon, Respondent.


          Kaymani D. West Florence, United States Magistrate Judge

         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

         Edward J. Frasier (“Petitioner”) is detained at the Charleston County Detention Center, pending trial on state robbery charges.[1] He submitted a one-page Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to this court, requesting it to grant him a personal recognizance bond or other bond reduction. ECF No. 1. Petitioner does not provide any information about any efforts he has made in state court to obtain a bond reduction.

         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)).

         In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), 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 Court 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)).

         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.

         Petitioner desires a bond reduction. This federal court cannot grant the requested relief because Petitioner's criminal charges are state charges, not federal charges. Nevertheless, he may be able to request bond reduction from the state trial judge presiding over his case through pretrial motion. If the trial court denies such motion, he can raise such denial as a ground for relief in a direct appeal and/or in a post-conviction relief application. As a result, his request is 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 demonstrate "special circumstances, " or to show that he has no ...

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