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McKnight v. Kerestes

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 13, 2017

WILLIAM F. MCKNIGHT, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN KERESTES, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          RICHARD P. CONABOY United States District Judge

         Background

         William F. McKnight initiated this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 while confined at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania (SCI-Mahanoy).[1] Service of the petition was previously ordered.

         Petitioner entered a guilty plea on March 27, 2014 to a charge of making/selling/repairing an offensive weapon in the Wayne County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas.[2] McKnight was sentenced that same day to an eighteen (18) to forty-two (42) month term of imprisonment.

         Petitioner filed a direct appeal which was denied by the Pennsylvania Superior Court on October 6, 2014. He did not seek further review. McKnight states that he thereafter filed a habeas corpus petition with the sentencing court on February 24, 2014.[3]His petition asserted claims of newly discovered evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel, and falsification of police documents. The Petitioner asserts that no action was taken on his petition by the Wayne County Court of Common Pleas.

         McKnight claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the grounds that the state trial court acted improperly by refusing to provide him with an evidentiary hearing on his habeas corpus petition. See Doc. 1, ¶ 12. He adds that his court appointed attorney failed to pursue the matter which would have shown that he could not have been in possession of a firearm and that he was the subject of a falsified search warrant. Petitioner further contends that the state's court failure to take action also denied him his right to file an appeal.

         Petitioner has also provided the Court with a copy of a Superior Court Order dated March 21, 2016 denying his appeal for failure to file a brief. See Doc. 16. McKnight claims that he never filed or authorized any such appeal. See id.

         According to the Respondent Petitioner filed both a direct appeal and a PCRA action, both of which were denied by the trial court. The PCRA action is described as raising claims including the issue of whether McKnight knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to counsel. See Doc. 11, ¶ 5. Respondent adds that the Superior Court remanded the matter to the trial court for an on the record determination as to whether Petitioner made a proper waiver of his right to counsel. A hearing on that matter was scheduled by the trial court for January, 2016. The appeal of the PCRA action was pending before the Superior Court at the time this matter was filed.

         Discussion

         McKnight claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the grounds that the state trial court acted improperly by refusing to provide him with an evidentiary hearing on his state habeas corpus petition. See Doc. 1, ¶ 12. As noted earlier, it appears that the state habeas corpus hearing was actually a PCRA proceeding.

         Based upon information provided by the parties, after the November, 2015 filing of this action, the Petitioner was provided with a PCRA hearing by the state trial court in January, 2016. Thereafter, his PCRA appeal was dismissed by the Superior Court on March 21, 2016.

         Mootness

         The case or controversy requirement of Article III, § 2 of the United States Constitution subsists through all stages of federal judicial proceedings. Parties must continue to have a “‘personal stake in the outcome' of the lawsuit." Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477-78 (1990); Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975). In other words, throughout the course of the action, the aggrieved party must suffer or be threatened with actual injury caused by the defendant. Lewis, 494 U.S. at 477.

         The adjudicatory power of a federal court depends upon "the continuing existence of a live and acute controversy." Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 459 (1974) (emphasis in original). "The rule in federal cases is that an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Id. at n.10 (citations omitted). "Past exposure to illegal conduct is insufficient to sustain a present case or controversy ... if unaccompanied by continuing, present adverse effects." Rosenberg v. Meese, 622 F.Supp. 1451, 1462 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (citing O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 ...


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