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Navedo v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 19, 2017




         On September 13, 2017, Petitioner Eliseo Navedo (“Petitioner”), a pre-trial detainee presently confined at the Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, initiated the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). Preliminary consideration of the petition pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, reveals that the petition is subject to summary dismissal because there are ongoing state court criminal proceedings.[1]

         I. Background

         Petitioner alleges that he was arrested on August 28, 2015 in “Dauphin County [matter] 1401-2016.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 1). A preliminary hearing was held in March 2016, and he was arraigned in April 2016. (Id. at 2, 3, p. 4). He has appeared in state court on multiple occasions since that time. (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 7). According to the electronic docket in Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County Criminal Case Number CP-22-CR-0001401-2016, retrieved from Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System,, he has moved to continue his trial on multiple occasions. Currently, the trial is scheduled to commence on October 23, 2017.

         “Petitioner moves for Habeas Corpus as he has been in the Custody of the Dauphin County Officials for over 2 years without going to Trial through no fault of his own as it is the Prosecution who has not been ready and has violated his rights to a Speedy Trial as afforded him by P.R.C.P. 600 and entitles Petitioner to the relief requested.” (Doc. 1, p. 2).

         II. Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a person in state custody may file an application for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the fact or length of his or her confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 494 (1973); Tedford v. Hepting, 990 F.2d 745, 748 (3d Cir. 1993). However, this section specifically provides that the person must be in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). It is apparent from the instant petition that Petitioner has not yet been tried or convicted on the criminal charges he faces in Dauphin County, and, thus, he is not yet in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court.

         Notwithstanding this deficiency, generally, federal courts must adjudicate all cases and controversies that are properly before them. New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. Council of City of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 358 (1989). Abstention, however, “is the judicially created doctrine under which a federal court will decline to exercise its jurisdiction so that a state court or state agency will have the opportunity to decide the matters at issue.” Heritage Farms, Inc. v. Solebury Twp., 671 F.2d 743, 746 (3d Cir. 1982). In Younger v. Harris, the United States Supreme Court “established a principle of abstention when federal adjudication would disrupt an ongoing state criminal proceeding.” Yang v. Tsui, 416 F.3d 199, 202 (3d Cir. 2005) (discussing Younger, 401 U.S. 37 (1971)). The Younger Court based its decision on the principles of comity and “the longstanding public policy against federal court interference with state court proceedings.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 43. Younger abstention applies when the following three requirements are met: “(1) there are ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal claims.” Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 670 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Addiction Specialists, Inc. v. Twp. of Hampton, 411 F.3d 399, 408 (3d Cir. 2005)).

         Notably, even when all requirements are met, abstention is not appropriate when the following extraordinary circumstances exist: “(1) the state proceedings are being undertaken in bad faith or for purposes of harassment or (2) some other extraordinary circumstances exist, such as proceedings pursuant to a flagrantly unconstitutional statute. . . .” Schall v. Jovce, 885 F.2d 101, 106 (3d Cir. 1989). These exceptions are to be narrowly construed. Loftus v. Twp. of Lawrence Park, 764 F.Supp. 354, 357 (W.D. Pa. 1991).

         It is evident from the electronic docket and the petition that Petitioner is in ongoing criminal proceedings which implicate important state interests in that he is awaiting trial on pending criminal charges. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-4; Common Pleas of Dauphin County Criminal Case Number CP-22-CR-0001401-2016, Moreover, his trial is scheduled for October 23, 2017, which indicates that the state court process is available to him. Because there is relief available at the state court level, there is an absence of extraordinary circumstances that would warrant the intervention of a federal court on this issue. Thus, out of deference to the state judicial process, it is appropriate to abstain from entertaining the petition. Indeed, “[i]n no area of the law is the need for a federal court to stay its hand pending completion of state proceedings more evident than in the case of pending criminal proceedings.” Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, 959 F.2d 1227, 1234 (3d Cir. 1992).

         III. Conclusion

         For the reasons set forth above, the petition for writ of habeas corpus will be dismissed.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), unless a circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of appealability (“COA”), an appeal may not be taken from a final order in a proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A COA may issue only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). “A petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of his constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322 (2003). “When the district court denies a habeas petition on procedural grounds without reaching the prisoner's underlying constitutional claim, a COA should issue when the prisoner shows, at least, that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right and that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). Here, jurists of reason would not find the procedural disposition of this case debatable. Accordingly, there is no basis for the issuance of a certificate of appealability.

         The denial of a certificate of appealability does not prevent Petitioner from appealing the order dismissing his petition so long as he seeks, and obtains, a certificate of appealability ...

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