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Torres-Sanchez v. Walsh


November 5, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R. Strawbridge United States Magistrate Judge


On or about October 15, 2010, Petitioner Esteban Torres-Sanchez submitted for filing with the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania a "Form for Use in Application for Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254," accompanied by a memorandum of law and exhibits. In an Order filed on October 21, 2010, the Honorable Richard P. Conaboy directed the case to be transferred to this Court, in light of the fact that Petitioner was challenging a conviction that was obtained in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. No. 1.) Following the transfer, the Honorable C. Darnell Jones, II of this Court referred the case to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation. (Doc. No. 2.)

In his form petition, Torres-Sanchez identifies the judgment of conviction that he is challenging, CP-36-CR-929-2004 in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas, and provides information as to some of the key events in his state court post-conviction proceedings. The form proves less helpful, however, in demonstrating with any succinctness the nature of his claims. Paragraph twelve of the Petition form directs him to "[s]tate concisely every ground on which you claim that you are being held unlawfully. Give specific facts supporting each ground." (Pet. at 7 (emphasis in original).) On page 8 of the form, where a list of "the most frequently raised grounds for relief in habeas corpus proceedings" is included "[f]or information," (Pet. at 7), Torres-Sanchez has circled seven of the ten grounds listed - even though the instructions state: "Do not check any of these grounds." (Pet. at 8.) In the space below this list of frequently-raised grounds, where he is invited to use two lines to describe "Ground one" and four lines to set forth "Specific Facts supporting this ground without citing cases or law," he has responded: "See: Memorandum of Law, (which is attached)." (Pet. at 8.) He does not provide any information in the subsections for "Ground two," "Ground three," or "Ground four." (Pet. at 8-9.) The memorandum of law that he has attached runs some thirty-eight pages, with another eight pages of exhibits. The memorandum does not purport to lay out grounds for federal habeas relief but rather sets forth a series of ten questions with "suggested answers" and discussion beneath each.*fn1

Rule 2 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts requires that a habeas petition "(1) specify all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner; [and] (2) state the facts supporting each ground[.]" Rule 2(c) fol. 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In addition, "[t]he petition must substantially follow either the form appended to these rules or a form prescribed by a local district-court rule." Id., Rule 2(d). Torres-Sanchez's present petition does not meet these standards. In light of this, we must ask Petitioner to re-submit the form so that he may properly state his claims for federal habeas relief.

We are providing Petitioner the attached blank copy of the "Petition for Relief From a Conviction or Sentence By a Person in State Custody (Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus)" for use in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.*fn2 It is not necessary for Petitioner to pay the filing fee described in the instructions, as his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was already granted by Judge Conaboy prior to transfer here. However, it is necessary for Petitioner to answer Question 12 (pages 8-14) completely, to the best of his ability, particularly the portions asking him to lay out the "ground" and the "supporting facts." See also generally 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (providing that the federal court shall entertain a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus "only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States"). While the form directs petitioners to "[a]ttach additional pages if you have more than four grounds," Torres-Sanchez must set forth his first four grounds on the petition form itself and replicate the format of the form's questions with respect to any additional grounds (beyond four) that he lays out in any additional pages.

While not a defect that implicates Rule 2 as much as perhaps Rule 4,*fn3 we do advise Petitioner to answer Question 18 of the petition with particular care. That question concerns the "timeliness of petition" and calls for an explanation of "why the one-year statute of limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) does not bar [the] petition" if the judgment of conviction became final over one year ago. (Pet. at 17.)*fn4

AND NOW, this 5th day of November, 2010, in light of the foregoing and pursuant to Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Petitioner shall complete pages 4 through 19 of the attached petition form (Form PAE AO 241, Rev. 07/10) and submit the petition to the Clerk of this Court (601 Market Street, Room 2609, Philadelphia, PA 19106), on or before December 8, 2010.

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