United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
24, 2019, pro se Petitioner Douglas Preston Smith
(“Smith”), who is presently confined at the State
Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
(“SCI Huntingdon”), initiated the above-captioned
action by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. No. 1) and submitting
the requisite filing fee (Doc. No. 4). On June 26, 2019, the
Court issued an administrative order in accordance with
United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1999)
and Mason v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000),
instructing Smith that he could (1) have the petition ruled
on as filed - that is, as a § 2254 petition for writ of
habeas corpus - but lose his ability to file a second or
successive petition, absent certification by the court of
appeals; or (2) withdraw his petition and file one
all-inclusive § 2254 petition within the one-year
statutory period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”). (Doc. No.
5.) The Court informed Smith that his failure to return the
Notice of Election Form would result in the Court ruling on
his current § 2254 petition as filed. (Id.)
8, 2019, the Court received a “Notice of Contract and
Reaffirmation Under the Jurisdiction for the United States of
America” from Smith. (Doc. No. 6.) Attached to this
document was the Court's June 26, 2019 administrative
order and Notice of Election Form, over which Smith wrote
“Refuse for Cause Consent Not Given Permission Denied
Without Dishonor/UCC 3-501(3)(ii).” (Id. at
8-12.) Given Smith's failure to return a completed Notice
of Election Form, the Court will rule upon his § 2254
petition as filed. Accordingly, the Court will review the
petition pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section
2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C.
foll. § 2254, and, for the following reasons, dismiss
the petition without prejudice.
October 31, 2013, following a jury trial, Smith was found
guilty of criminal homicide and third-degree murder. See
Commonwealth v. Smith, CP-21-CR-0002675-2010 (C.C.P.
Cumberland Cty.). On December 31, 2013, he was sentenced to
a minimum of twenty (20) years and a maximum of forty (40)
the denial of post-sentence motions, Smith appealed to the
Superior Court of Pennsylvania. See id.; see
also Commonwealth v. Smith, No. 1977 MDA 2015, 2016 WL
7330624 (Pa. Super. Ct. Dec. 16, 2016). During appellate
proceedings, Smith “presented an after-discovered
evidence claim and requested a remand for an evidentiary
hearing.” Smith, 2016 WL 7330624, at *1. On
December 16, 2016, the Superior Court granted Smith's
request and remanded the matter to the trial court for
further proceedings. Id.
remand, Smith, through counsel, also filed a Post-Conviction
Relief (“PCRA”) petition. See Smith,
CP-21-CR-0002675-2010. On July 17, 2018, the PCRA court
denied relief. Id. Smith subsequently appealed to
the Superior Court. Id.; see also Commonwealth
v. Smith, 1335 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Ct.). The Superior
Court's docket sheet reflects that appellate proceedings
are still pending before that court.
corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the
United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254.
Rule 4 provides, in pertinent part: “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.” See Rule 4, 28 U.S.C.
foll. § 2254. Based upon the petition and the state
court docket, the Court concludes that this petition is
seeking federal habeas corpus relief, the provision of the
federal habeas corpus statute at 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)
requires a state prisoner to exhaust available state-court
remedies. To comply with the exhaustion requirement, a state
prisoner first must have “fairly presented” his
constitutional and federal law issues to the state courts
through direct appeal, collateral review, state habeas
proceedings, mandamus proceedings, or other available
procedures for judicial review. See, e.g.,
Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351 (1989);
Doctor v. Walters, 96 F.3d 675, 678 (3d Cir. 1996).
To “fairly present” a claim, a petitioner must
present a federal claim's factual and legal substance to
the state courts in a manner that puts the state courts on
notice that a federal claim is being asserted. See
McCandless v. Vaughn, 172 F.3d 255, 261 (3d Cir. 1999).
petitioner must invoke “one complete round” of
the applicable state's appellate review process, thereby
giving the courts of that state “one full
opportunity” to resolve any issues relevant to such
claims. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S.
838, 845 (1999) (holding that a petitioner must present every
claim raised in the federal petition to the state's trial
court, intermediate appellate court, and highest court before
exhaustion would be considered satisfied). The exhaustion
doctrine is rooted in the tradition of comity, and the state
must be given the “initial opportunity to pass upon and
correct alleged violations of its prisoners'
[constitutional] rights.” See Alston v.
Diguglielmo, No. 07-cv-2618, 2009 WL 2096214, at *2
(E.D. Pa. July 14, 2009) (quoting case omitted). The
petitioner has the burden of establishing that exhaustion has
been satisfied. See Lines v. Larkins, 208 F.3d 153,
159 (3d Cir. 2000).
apparent from the procedural history set forth above that
Smith has not exhausted his state court remedies. As is
evident from the docket of the Superior Court, Smith's
appellate proceedings regarding the denial of his PCRA
petition are currently pending before the Superior Court.
See Smith, 1335 MDA 2018 (indicating that the matter
is awaiting decision). Thus, this Court must allow for state
proceedings to conclude before entertaining Smith's
habeas petition. See O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at
Smith's appellate proceedings remain pending, the
one-year statute of limitations will not bar a subsequent
habeas petition. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), a state
defendant has one year to file a § 2254 petition. For
purposes of the instant petition, that period starts to run
from the date the conviction becomes final, defined in §
2241(d)(1)(A) as “the date on which the judgment became
final by the conclusion of a direct review or the expiration
of the time for seeking such review.” See 28
U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). The limitations period is also
tolled for the “time during which a properly filed
application for [s]tate post-conviction relief or other
collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or
claim is pending.” See Id. § 2244(d)(2).
the current status of his state proceedings, even on the
strictest calculation of the limitations period, Smith has an
opportunity to return to federal court after exhausting his
state court remedies. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the
petition without prejudice to Smith's right to refile the
petition promptly at the conclusion of his state court
proceedings should he elect to do so. See Myers v. Warden
of SCI-Albion, No. 4:08-cv-100, 2010 WL 1838178, at *5
(M.D. Pa. May 6, 2010) ...