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Washington v. Cannon

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

July 23, 2019

Maurice D. Washington, Petitioner,
v.
Al Cannon, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Maurice Washington, a pro se state pretrial detainee, seeks habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Dkt. No. 1). This matter is before the Court for initial screening. Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the petition and submit a recommendation to the District Judge. For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends summarily dismissing under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).

         BACKGROUND

         Washington is in jail on four criminal charges. (See Dkt. No. 1 at 1.) He contends his custody is unconstitutional under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 73 (1963), and Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), and more generally under the First through Fourteenth Amendments. (Id.) He also claims he is being held in violation of Rule 5 of the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules 702 and 703 of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence, and State v. Cole, 403 S.E.2d 117 (S.C. 1991). (Id.) He demands to be released from custody and to have all charges dismissed. (Dkt. No. 1 at 1.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This is a preliminary review of Washington's § 2241 petition. See Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases (requiring district courts to screen habeas petitions); see also Rule 1(b), Rules Governing § 2254 Cases (allowing district courts to apply the rules to other § 2241 petitions). The narrow question before the Court is whether it “plainly appears” that Washington is not entitled to any relief in this Court. Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases. If so, the petition must be dismissed; if not, the warden must respond. Id. Because Washington is representing himself, the undersigned has reviewed the petition liberally. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         DISCUSSION

         As Washington makes clear in his petition, his goal is dismissal of his pending criminal prosecution in South Carolina state court. However, criminal defendants generally cannot use federal habeas “to dismiss an indictment or otherwise prevent a prosecution.” Dickerson v. Louisiana, 816 F.2d 220, 226 (5th Cir. 1987) (citation and quotation marks omitted). That prohibition comes from our “national policy forbidding federal courts to stay or enjoin pending state court proceedings except under special circumstances.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 41. Under Younger, a federal court must refrain from exercising its jurisdiction over a § 2241 challenge to pending state charges if-

(1) there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding that began prior to substantial progress in the federal habeas proceeding;
(2) that proceeding implicates important, substantial, or vital state interests; and
(3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges within the framework of the state judicial process.

Robinson v. Thomas, 855 F.3d 278, 285 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing Middlesex City Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)).

         Because Washington was already in jail on four charges when he filed his petition, the first criterion is easily met. So is the second. See Nivens v. Gilchrist, 319 F.3d 151, 154 (4th Cir. 2003) (finding state had a “very important, substantial, and vital interest in preventing violations of its criminal laws”); see also Cooper v. Oklahoma, 517 U.S. 348, 367 (1996) (noting “the State's interest in the efficient operation of its criminal justice system” is an “important state interest[]”). As for the third, “ordinarily a pending state prosecution provides the accused a fair and sufficient opportunity for vindication of federal constitutional rights.” Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 124 (1975). Nothing in Washington's petition suggests his pending case departs from that ordinary situation. Rather, he can assert his claims before, during, and-if need be-after trial.

         “A federal court may disregard Younger's mandate to abstain from interfering with ongoing state proceedings only where extraordinary circumstances exist that present the possibility of irreparable harm.” Robinson, 855 F.3d at 286 (citations and quotation marks omitted). Seeing none here, the undersigned finds that ...


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