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Vaughn v. Franklin County Jail

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2017

RICHARD ALVIN VAUGHN, Petitioner
v.
FRANKLIN COUNTY JAIL, et al., Respondents

          MEMORANDUM

          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the court is the report (Doc. 3) of Chief Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab recommending dismissal of a Section 2254 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 1). The petition was filed on behalf of Petitioner Richard Alvin Vaughn (“Vaughn”) by Joshua A. Monighan (“Monighan”), who claims to have power of attorney for Vaughn. (Id. at 1, 14). The named respondents are the Franklin County Jail and the Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania. (Id. at 1). Judge Schwab recommended that the instant petition for habeas corpus be dismissed. (Doc. 3 at 10). For the following reasons, the court agrees and will dismiss Vaughn's petition.

         II. Background

         On December 16, 2016, Monighan filed a “Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus By a Person in State Custody.” (Doc. 1). The petition was filed on behalf of Vaughn, who Monighan claimed was “incommunicado” and in “solitary” with “limited access/resources & information.” (Id. at 14). Monighan also claims that he has “power of attorney” for Vaughn, but provided no evidence or documentation to support this assertion. (Id. at 1, 14).

         The habeas petition and attached declaration are difficult to decipher. It appears that the habeas claim concerns both a 1999 state court conviction and judgment, as well as a pending 2016 state court criminal case that has yet to go to trial. Judge Schwab took judicial notice of the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County docket sheet for Vaughn and determined that the pending 2016 charges include corruption of minors, unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault of a person less than 16 years of age, and criminal attempt of indecent assault of a person less than 16 years of age. (Doc. 3 at 2 (citing Commonwealth v. Vaughn, No. CP-28-CR-0001395-2016 (Ct. Com. Pl. Franklin Cty. 2016))). Judge Schwab also noted that, at the time of her report, trial in the 2016 criminal matter was scheduled for the March 2017 trial term. (Id.)

         Judge Schwab performed a thorough interpretation and analysis of the habeas petition and its attachments. In her report, she determined that, while the petition raised a number of disjointed and underdeveloped claims-claims that include issues regarding the 2016 warrant, the assistant district attorney's competency, Miranda warnings, inadequate medical treatment, denial of access to the courts, improper waiver of arraignment, insufficient law library access, unfair bail determinations, discrimination, and Sixth Amendment counsel rights-Petitioner's habeas claim primarily focused on the 2016 detention and asserted that Vaughn was wrongfully imprisoned. (Doc. 3 at 3-4).

         Accordingly, because the 2016 criminal case was still in the pretrial stages, Judge Schwab construed the § 2254 habeas petition as a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Id. at 5-6). She then recommended dismissing the § 2241 petition due to failure to exhaust state remedies and lack of extraordinary circumstances that would excuse the failure to exhaust. (Id. at 6-9).

         Monighan, again acting on behalf of Vaughn, filed objections (Doc. 5) to the report and recommendation, which are even more difficult to understand than the initial habeas petition. Among the numerous objections listed, the substantive objections Monighan seems to assert are that (1) Judge Schwab incorrectly ignored the independent habeas claims raised regarding the 1999 conviction, (id. at 1, 5); (2) Monighan has a right to file the instant habeas petition on Vaughn's behalf not only because he has a power of attorney for Vaughn, but also because he has “Taxpayer” standing, (id. at 5, 8); and (3) Monighan should have the right to subpoena documents and video from Franklin County in support of the instant petition, (id. at 4, 5, 11, 14).

         III. Standard of Review

         When a party objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must review de novo the contested portions of the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); M.D. Pa. Local Rule 72.3. Uncontested portions of the report are reviewed for “clear error on the face of the record.” Clouser v. Johnson, 40 F.Supp.3d 425, 430 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (quoting Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 375-78 (M.D. Pa. 1998) (quoting 1983 Advisory Committee Notes to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b))).

         IV. Discussion

         Regardless of what habeas claims Monighan is actually attempting to assert on behalf of Vaughn, and regardless of whether the appropriate habeas procedural vehicle is § 2254 or § 2241, the instant petition must be dismissed. It is plainly apparent from the face of the petition that Monighan does not have standing to file a habeas petition on Vaughn's behalf, and therefore this court lacks the power to entertain the petition or grant habeas relief.

         Under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254, “if it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” Without requiring an answer from the respondent, the court is “authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its ...


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