The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter
Presently before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Shan Chilcott. [ECF No. 7]. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be summarily dismissed and a certificate of appealability will be denied. Additionally, Petitioner's motions for a preliminary injunction [ECF Nos. 11 and 12] are denied.
On January 31, 2012, Petitioner commenced the present action by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. [ECF No. 7]. According to him, he was at the time being detained at the Erie County Prison pursuant to a civil contempt order. He named as Respondents the City of Erie, the Erie Police Department, Judge Brabender of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, the "Court House," and Gaudenzia, which is a facility that provides, inter alia, care for substance abuse and mental health services.
Petitioner claims that in July of 2010, the Erie Police Department unlawfully detained him outside his home and took his firearms without a warrant. [ECF No. 7 at 1]. He also claims that in December of 2011 he was detained in the Erie County Prison for failure to pay $1,500 in child support. He contends that "$1,500 is not a reasonable amount for me to come up with." [ECF No. 7 at 1]. Petitioner also makes allegations against Gaudenzia. He claims that he learned of purported misconduct that has occurred there when he "visited a friend there[,] Sharon Fitzpatrick." [ECF No. 7 at 2].
As relief, Petitioner seeks an order from this Court directing that: (1) his guns/rifles/shotguns be returned to him; (2) he be released from his confinement or, in the alternative, that the $1,500 payment requirement be reduced; and, (3) "Sharon Fitzpatrick get her mail and visits" from him and that the discrimination against her stop. He also seeks "punitive damages" from the city for alleged harassment. [ECF No. 7 at 2].
Also pending before the Court are two motions for a preliminary injunction that Petitioner recently filed. [ECF Nos. 11, 12]. In those motions, he requests that this Court intervene in a Protection From Abuse ("PFA") proceeding that Sharon Fitzpatrick recently initiated against him in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County.
Petitioner's recent filings establish that he has been released from the Erie County Prison. [ECF Nos. 9-14].
Respondents have not yet filed an Answer. However, because it plainly appears that Petitioner is not entitled to relief in habeas, the petition will be summarily dismissed and a certificate of appealability will be denied.
To extent that Petitioner was seeking relief from his confinement in the Erie County Prison, that claim is moot because he has been released. It is a well-established principle that federal courts do not have jurisdiction to decide an issue unless it presents a live case or controversy as required by Article III of the Constitution. See Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998); Burkey v. Marberry, 556 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2009). "This case-or-controversy requirement subsists through all stages of federal judicial proceedings, trial and appellate ... the parties must continue to have a 'personal stake in the outcome' of the lawsuit." Id., quoting Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477-78 (1990). Thus, if developments occur during the course of adjudication that eliminate a petitioner's personal stake in the outcome of a suit or prevent a court from being able to grant effective relief, the case must be dismissed as moot. Burkey, 556 F.3d at 147, citing Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7.*fn2
The purpose of a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus is to challenge the legal authority under which a prisoner is being held in custody. 28 U.S.C. § 2254, § 2241. Because Petitioner has been released from the Erie County Prison, he has obtained the only relief that this Court could have provided to him in habeas. He therefore no longer has the requisite "personal stake" in the outcome of the litigation. Id.; Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7. Accordingly, there is no case or controversy for this Court to consider, and for that reason any claims Petitioner makes challenging the legality of his detention are moot.
None of the other claims raised in the petition are cognizable in habeas and they will be dismissed for that reason. As noted above, the purpose of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is to challenge the legal authority under which a prisoner is being held in custody, and neither of the federal habeas statutes (28 U.S.C. § 2254 and § 2241) give this Court the authority to direct that Petitioner's guns/rifles/shotguns be returned to him, or that the amount he owes in child support be reduced. Nor do they give Petitioner the ability to seek any type of relief on Sharon Fitzpatrick's behalf. Additionally, because money damages are not available in a habeas corpus action, Petitioner's request for punitive damages must be denied as well. See, e.g., Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 494 (1973) (explaining that "if a state prisoner is seeking damages, he is attacking something other than immediate or more speedy release -- the traditional ...