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SANTIAGO v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


July 16, 2004.

CARLOS MANUEL SANTIAGO
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: DIANE WELSH, Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Presently before the Court is a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Carlos Manuel Santiago. Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the State Regional Correctional Facility in Mercer, Pennsylvania. For the reasons which follow, the habeas petition should be transferred to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

I. BACKGROUND

  On April 11, 2001, petitioner filed a previous habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court which was identified as Civil Action No. 01-1940. See Santiago v. Walters, 2001 WL 1622098, at *3-4 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2001). In that petition, petitioner raised six claims attacking his underlying conviction in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas and actions taken by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("Board"). Petitioner's sixth claim alleged that the Board "violated his constitutional rights by impermissibly basing its previous parole determinations on his erroneous criminal history, and by failing to conduct a parole review based on his corrected criminal record." Id. at *4. By Memorandum and Order dated December 18, 2001, the Honorable William H. Yohn, Jr. dismissed petitioner's first five claims because they were procedurally defaulted under Pennsylvania law. Id. at *6, *8. Judge Yohn found petitioner's sixth claim without merit. Id. at *7-8.

  In support of his denial of the sixth claim, Judge Yohn found:

In this case, the [Board] articulated numerous reasons for its January 14, 2000 denial of parole to [petitioner], none of which had anything to do with the erroneous notation regarding his 1985 convictions. These included his failure to successfully complete a treatment program for sex offenders, his failure to obtain a favorable recommendation from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and his continued placement of blame on his child victim.
Id. at *7-8 (footnote omitted). Accordingly, Judge Yohn "conclude[d] that the [Board] had a rational basis for denying petitioner parole" and that the Board's "decision comported with the requirements of due process." Id. at *7. In addition, Judge Yohn found that "petitioner certainly has suffered no due process deprivation based on the [Board's] failure to immediately conduct a parole review based on [petitioner's] corrected criminal record." Id. at *8. The Court's civil docket (hereinafter cited as "Ct.'s Dckt.") reflects that, subsequent to the December 18, 2001 Memorandum and Order, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied a certificate of appealability related to that petition.

  On January 26, 2004, petitioner filed a document styled "Motion for Complaint at Law/And Case Review Before the United States District Court" (hereinafter referred to as "habeas petition"),*fn1 which was originally filed under the previous Civil Action No. 01-1940.*fn2 The civil docket reflects that on January 29, 2004, Judge Yohn ordered, among other things, that the clerk "refile the petition/Motion for Complaint at Law/And Case Review as a new action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254." Accordingly, the Clerk of Court re-filed the habeas petition on January 29, 2004 as Civil Action No. 04-418.

  On February 2, 2004, Judge Yohn ordered that the Clerk of Court furnish petitioner with a blank copy of the current form for filing a § 2254 petition and that petitioner complete this form as directed by Local Rule of Civil Procedure 9.3*fn3 and Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases.*fn4 Petitioner was ordered to return the completed form to the Clerk of Court within 30 days, "together in the same envelope with either a completed in forma pauperis application or a check for five dollars, or else this civil action will be dismissed." See Order filed 2/2/04 (Doc. No. 2) (emphasis in original).

  The docket reflects that on February 24, 2004, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. No. 3), but again "not on [the] current form," see Ct.'s Dckt. (Civ. Action No. 04-418), in non-compliance with Judge Yohn's February 2, 2004 Order. In addition, it appears from the docket and the record before the Court that petitioner failed to file a completed in forma pauperis ("IFP") application or the required filing fee.

  On April 26, 2004, petitioner filed a "Memorandum of Law" (Doc. No. 4) in support of his petition. By Order dated June 2, 2004, petitioner was advised, among other things, of the one year statute of limitations applicable to § 2254 petitions and the prohibition of a second or successive habeas petition "except under very specific and rare circumstances" which "requires certification by the . . . Court of Appeals." See Order dated 6/2/04 (Doc. No. 5), at 1. Petitioner was further advised that he had 30 days from the date of the June 2, 2004 Order to notify the Court as to whether he wished to have his petition heard as a § 2254 petition or otherwise or whether he wished to withdraw the petition so that he could file "one all inclusive § 2554 petition" within the one-year statutory period to include "all potential claims for which [he] might desire to seek review and relief." See Order dated 6/2/04 (Doc. No. 5), at 1-2.

  On that same date, Judge Yohn also filed a separate Order advising petitioner of the following: "[T]he petitioner having filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on February 24, 2004 which is reflected as document number 3 on the court's docket, but the clerk being unable to locate the petition after a vigorous search, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the petitioner shall file a copy of the petition with the court within thirty days of the date hereof." See Order dated 6/2/04 (Doc. No. 6) (emphasis omitted). Petitioner thereafter submitted a document styled "Complaint of Prejudice" dated June 14, 2004 and marked received by the Court on June 17, 2004. Although, as with petitioner's other filings in this case, this recent filing is far from a model of clarity, petitioner appears to reiterate claims made in the original habeas petition filed by petitioner on January 26, 2004.

  II. DISCUSSION

  Title 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d) provides:

Where an application for a writ of habeas corpus is made by a person in custody under the judgment and sentence of a State court of a State which contains two or more Federal judicial districts, the application may be filed in the district court for the district wherein such person is in custody or in the district court for the district within which the State court was held which convicted and sentenced him and each of such district courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction to entertain the application. The district court for the district wherein such an application is filed in the exercise of its discretion and in furtherance of justice may transfer the application to the other district court for hearing and determination.
See Gellock v. Freeman, 1987 WL 7208, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 27, 1987). In the present case, petitioner and his custodian are located in the Western District of Pennsylvania.*fn5 Although it appears that petitioner may have been convicted by a state court within this district, see Santiago, 2001 WL 1622098, at *1 (referring to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas), petitioner is not presently challenging the lawfulness of his underlying convictions. Instead, in liberally construing the pro se documents filed by petitioner, see Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), petitioner appears to be challenging subsequent actions of the Board.*fn6 See, e.g, Hab Pet. at 3 ("The Parole Board of Pennsylvania, repeatedly, gave the Petitioner hits based on the false/fake/misleading/incorrect information, that the Attorney General supplied to this Court . . . and . . . to the petitioner's case history.") (ellipses in original) (emphasis omitted); see also id. at 4 (petitioner "supplied the Parole Board with the corrected records . . . but, these were arbitrarily rejected by Parole Board agents, and the State Regional Correctional Facility at Mercer.") (ellipses in original) (emphasis omitted).

  Under the circumstances in the present case, it would be more practical and equitable to transfer petitioner's application to the Western District of Pennsylvania since that is where petitioner and his custodian are located. See Gellock, 1987 WL 7208, at *1 (transferring § 2254 petition to district where petitioner and custodian were located); Yacoubian v. Petsock, 1986 WL 2564, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 25, 1986) (same). Among other things, the inconvenience of transferring petitioner from Mercer, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia for any hearings makes the Western District a more appropriate forum.*fn7 See Gellock, 1987 WL 7208, at *1; Yacoubian, 1986 WL 2564, at *1. Accordingly, this petition should be transferred, in the interest of justice, to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).*fn8 See Gellock, 1987 WL 7208, at *1; Yacoubian, 1986 WL 2564, at *1.

  My Recommendation follows. RECOMMENDATION

  AND NOW, this day of July, 2004, upon consideration of the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, for the reasons given in the accompanying Report, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus be TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.


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