United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
CHARLES E. SMITH, Petitioner
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Respondent
the Court is Petitioner Charles E. Smith's
(“Petitioner”) petition for writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, filed on April 18, 2018.
(Doc. No. 1.) The present petition appears to be
Petitioner's fourth habeas petition challenging the same
ongoing state criminal proceedings in the Court of Common
Pleas of Dauphin County. The petition has been given preliminary
consideration and, for the reasons discussed below, will be
dismissed without prejudice because there continues to be an
ongoing state court criminal proceeding. See Rule 4
of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, 28 U.S.C. foll.
Court has reviewed Petitioner's most recent habeas
petition and the state court docket in the Court of Common Pleas
of Dauphin County and ascertained the following. On or about
July 6, 2016, Petitioner was arrested and detained by the
Harrisburg Police Department on felony drug charges,
including drug delivery resulting in death. (Doc. No. 1);
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Smith,
CP-22-CR-0005603-2016. The charges were returned and
Petitioner was bound over to the Court of Common Pleas of
Dauphin County for trial. Smith,
CP-22-CR-0005603-2016. The docket of the Court of Common
Pleas of Dauphin County reveals that Petitioner was formally
arraigned on an Information filed by the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania charging him with drug delivery resulting in
death and delivery of drugs on November 18, 2016. The state
court docket reveals that Petitioner has not yet been
appears that Petitioner has filed a number of appeals in
state court, including a Post Conviction Relief Act
(“PCRA”) petition. Id. The petition was
denied by the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County on
March 21, 2018. Id. In its statement in lieu of a
memorandum and opinion, the PCRA court concluded that
Petitioner is not yet eligible for PCRA relief given that he
has not yet been convicted of a crime. Id.
Petitioner's state criminal docket reveals that the most
recent activity in his case is his appeal of the PCRA
court's denial of his petition to the Pennsylvania
Superior Court on April 18, 2018. Id. The appeal is
currently pending. Id.
state prisoners, federal habeas corpus is substantially a
post-conviction remedy.” Moore v. DeYoung, 515
F.2d 437, 441 (3d Cir. 1975). Nevertheless, federal courts
have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to issue
the writ before a judgment is rendered in a state criminal
proceeding. Id. at 441-42. Moreover, while
exhaustion of state remedies is statutorily mandated only in
post-trial situations, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b),
an exhaustion requirement in the 28 U.S.C. § 2241
pre-trial context has developed through decisional law.
Moore, 515 F.2d at 442. “[A]lthough there is a
distinction in the statutory language of §§ 2254
and 2241, there is no distinction insofar as the exhaustion
requirement is concerned.” Id.
serves the interests of federalism and comity between the
federal and state systems by allowing the state an initial
opportunity to determine and correct any violations of a
prisoner's federal rights. O'Sullivan v.
Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 844 (1999). The petitioner bears
the burden of demonstrating that he has exhausted his state
remedies, which requires the petitioner to show that he has
fairly presented his claim to the state courts.
O'Halloran v. Ryan, 835 F.2d 506, 508 (3d Cir.
1987); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 278 (1971).
To be fairly presented to the state courts, both the legal
theory and the facts supporting the claim must have been
presented. O'Halloran, 835 F.2d at 508.
Additionally, “state prisoners must give the state
courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional
issues by invoking one complete round of the [s]tate's
established appellate review process.”
O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845. A district court
should not issue a writ of habeas corpus without exhaustion
at the pre-trial stage unless extraordinary circumstances are
present. Moore, 515 F.2d at 443. “In 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.
absent extraordinary circumstances, Younger
abstention requires that a district court abstain
from enjoining pending state criminal proceedings when:
“(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 (3d
Cir. 2010) (quoting Addiction Specialists, Inc. v. Twp.
of Hampton, 411 F.3d 399, 408 (3d Cir. 2005)); see
Duran v. Thomas, 393 Fed.Appx. 3, 4 (3d Cir. 2010)
(stating that pre-trial habeas jurisdiction must be exercised
sparingly in order to prevent interference in the state
federal courts must adjudicate all cases and controversies
that are properly before them. New Orleans Pub. Serv.,
Inc. v. 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). Younger abstention is
“premised on the notion of comity, a principle of
deference and ‘proper respect' for state
governmental functions in our federal system.”
Evans v. C.C.P., Delaware Cty, Pa., 959 F.2d 1227,
1234 (3d Cir. 1992).
present matter, the Court concludes that all three
Younger criteria are met. First, there is an ongoing
state criminal proceeding wherein Petitioner is a defendant,
and granting Petitioner's request for relief would
interfere with those proceedings. See Commonwealth v.
Smith, CP-22-CR-5603-2016. Second, it is axiomatic that
state criminal proceedings necessarily implicate important
state interests. Younger, 401 U.S. at 45-46; see
also Wallace v. Keen, No. 12-cv-1366, 2012 WL 5197948,
at *4 (M.D. Oct. 19, 2012). Finally, Petitioner has the
opportunity to raise his constitutional claims in the context
of his state criminal proceedings in state court at the trial
stage and during any appellate proceedings. See
Wallace, 2012 WL 5197948, at *4; see also
Moore, 515 F.3d at 445 (providing that adequate state
court review remains available to petitioner “at trial
and thereafter, on appellate review”); Lazaridis v.
Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 671 (3d Cir. 2010) (providing that
Younger only requires “an opportunity to
present federal claims in a state proceeding, ” and
that the burden rests on the plaintiff “to show that
state procedural law barred presentation of [his]
claims”) (quoting Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S.
327, 337 (1997) and Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc.,
481 U.S. 1, 14-15 (1987)).
Petitioner has not made a showing that that Younger
abstention is inappropriate because: (1) the ongoing state
proceedings are undertaken in bad faith; (2) such proceedings
are meant to harass him; or (3) some extraordinary
circumstance exists that would prevent a significant and
immediate potential for irreparable harm to the asserted
federal interest by deferring to the state courts. See
Wallace, 2012 WL 5197948, at *4; Anthony v.
Council, 316 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir. 2003). Lastly,
“[i]t does not appear from the record that [Petitioner
has] been threatened with any injury other than that
incidental to every criminal proceeding brought lawfully and
in good faith.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 47
(quoting Douglas v. Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 164
a “federal court cannot provide habeas review for
pre-trial claims if the petitioner is attempting to abort his
state criminal proceeding because such adjudication would
constitute ‘an attempt to litigate constitutional
defenses prematurely in federal court.'”
Corliss v. Asure, No. 1:14-cv-46, 2015 WL 434989, at
*3 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 3, 2015) (quoting DeYoung, 515
F.2d at 441-42); see also Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit
of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 493 (1973) (habeas corpus ...