United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JONOTHAN E. PRATHER, Petitioner,
SUPERINTENDANT ROBERT GILMORE; and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Respondents.
J. Schwab Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MAUREEN P. KELLY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
respectfully recommended that the Petition Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus By a Person In State
Custody (“the Petition”) be transferred forthwith
to the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Pennsylvania because that is the District wherein
Petitioner's state court conviction was obtained, and, as
such, it is the more convenient forum for litigation of the
underlying allegations of the Petition.
E. Prather (“Petitioner”) is currently
incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Greene
(“SCI-Greene”), which is located in Greene
County, Pennsylvania, which is within the territorial
boundaries of the United States District Court for the
Western District of Pennsylvania. 28 U.S.C. § 118(c). In
the Petition, he challenges the validity of his conviction,
which was obtained in the Court of Common Pleas of Potter
County, which is located within the territorial boundaries of
the United States District Court for the Middle District of
Pennsylvania. ECF No. 3 ¶ 1(a). Because that conviction
arose out of Potter County, the interests of justice weigh in
favor of transferring this case to the United States District
Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Applicable Legal Principles and Discussion
power of this Court to grant the writ is founded upon 28
U.S.C. § 2241(a) which provides that the “[w]rits
of habeas corpus may be granted by the Supreme Court, any
justice thereof, the district courts and any circuit judge
within their respective
jurisdictions.” (emphasis added).
time of the commencement of this action, Petitioner was in
prison at SCI-Greene. Consequently, both the Western District
and the Middle District have “jurisdiction” to
entertain this petition. See 28 U.S.C. §
2241(d). See also Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542
U.S. 426, 443 (2004) (“§ 2241(d) provides that
when a petitioner is serving a state criminal sentence in a
State that contains more than one federal district, he may
file a habeas petition not only ‘in the district court
for the district wherein [he] is in custody, ' but also
‘in the district court for the district within which
the State court was held which convicted and sentenced
him'; and ‘each of such district courts shall have
concurrent jurisdiction to entertain the
application.'”); Dunne v. Henman, 875 F.2d
244, 248-50 (9th Cir. 1989) (“The fact that
a prisoner is outside the territorial limits of a federal
district court does not deprive it of subject matter
jurisdiction. A district court has subject matter
jurisdiction over a habeas petition alleging a violation of
federal law under federal question jurisdiction.”)
(citations omitted); Irving v. Breazeale, 265
F.Supp. 116, 120 n.9 (S.D.Miss. 1967) (even though petitioner
was incarcerated in the Northern District of Mississippi, the
Southern District of Mississippi, in which the
petitioner's state trial was conducted, had jurisdiction
over his habeas petition filed there), affd, 400
F.2d 231 (5th Cir. 1968). Although this Court
possesses subject matter jurisdiction to entertain this
Petition, it is not required to exercise such jurisdiction if
the interests of justice counsel otherwise.
in habeas corpus related cases filed by state prisoners
challenging their convictions, is proper in either the
federal district in which the state conviction was obtained
or the federal district in which the petitioner was
incarcerated at the time of filing the habeas petition.
See Walker v. Lockhart 620 F.2d 683, 684 n.1
(8th Cir. 1980) (although petitioner was confined
in the Eastern District of Arkansas, he filed his habeas
petition in the Western District wherein his state trial was
held, the court held that “venue was properly laid in
the Western District. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).”).
case, either this Court or the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, has jurisdiction to
hear this petition and venue is proper in either District.
However, this Court must exercise its discretion and
determine whether transferring this case to the Middle
District would be “in furtherance of justice.” 28
U.S.C. § 2241(d). In performing this venue analysis,
courts may rely upon traditional venue considerations.
See Braden v. 30th Judicial
District, 410 U.S. 484, 493 (1973); Garcia v.
Pugh, 948 F.Supp. 20, 23 (E.D. Pa. 1996). These
considerations include: 1) the location where the underlying
material events took place; 2) the location where records and
witnesses pertinent to the claim are likely to be found; 3)
the convenience of the forum for the petitioner and the
respondent; and 4) the familiarity of the court with the
applicable laws. Roman v. Ashcroft, 162 F.Supp.2d
755, 765 (N.D. Oh. 2001).
of those traditional venue considerations to the facts of
this case reveals that this case should be transferred to the
United States District Court for the Middle District of
Pennsylvania. First, the underlying material event, which was
Petitioner's criminal trial and conviction took place in
Potter County, Pennsylvania in the Middle District of
Pennsylvania. Second, all of the records and most of the
participants are presumably located in Potter County. Third,
in terms of convenience of the forum, if a hearing is held,
it will be more convenient for most of the witnesses and the
District Attorney of Potter County to litigate this Petition
in the Middle District. Presumably, Petitioner would be
temporarily transferred to a Department of Corrections
facility near Potter County were a hearing to be required.
Fourth, the factor of the familiarity of the court with the
applicable laws is evenly balanced as both this Court and the
Middle District Court are familiar with the law of
Pennsylvania. Considering these four factors in the context
of this action, the factors weigh heavily in favor of
transferring this case to the Middle District where the state
trial was held.
it has been the general practice of the United States
District Courts in Pennsylvania to transfer habeas corpus
petitions to the federal district where the Common Pleas
Court is located that conducted the underlying criminal trial
of the petitioner. Ortiz v. Pennsylvania, No.
3:10cv028, 2010 WL 936448, at *1 (M.D. Pa. March 15, 2010)
(action transferred from the “district (where
petitioner is in custody) to the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (where petitioner
was convicted) in keeping with agreed practice of the United
States District Courts for the Middle, Eastern, and Western
Districts of Pennsylvania.”); Nightingale v.
Vincent, No. Civ.A. 08-95J, 2008 WL 1943427, at *2 (W.D.
Pa. May 2, 2008) (“Moreover, the federal district
courts in the three separate districts in the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania all follow the uniform practice of transferring