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Warren v. Pike County Correctional Facility

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 24, 2019

ROBERT WARREN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
PIKE COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, et al., Defendants.

          CONNER, C.J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAROLINE MEHALCHICK United States Magistrate Judge

         On December 15, 2017, the Court received and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, signed and dated by the Petitioner, Robert Warren, Jr. (“Petitioner” or “Warren”) on December 12, 2017. (Doc. 1). At the time of filing, Warren was a pretrial detainee at the Pike County Correctional Facility. (Doc. 1, at 1). Since filing his initial petition, Warren came to be incarcerated in the Mobile County Metro Jail, within the state of Alabama. (Doc. 20, at 1). At issue before the Court is whether Warren's petition in this Court has become moot.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         At the time he filed this habeas petition, Warren was incarcerated at Pike County Correctional Facility. (Doc. 1). On April 5, 2017, a preliminary arraignment was held before Hon. Shannon L. Muir, Magisterial District Judge in Pike County, Pennsylvania. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. MJ-60302-CR-0000002-2017, at *1 (Pike Cty. Magis.). Warren was charged with violating 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 4915.1(a.1)(1), relating to his failure to register as a sex offender with the Pennsylvania State Police, and 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 4915.1(a.1)(2), relating to his failure to verify information or be photographed (“sex-offender Registration Related charges”). Commonwealth v. Warren, No. MJ-60302-CR-0000002-2017, at *2 (Pike Cty. Magis.).The preliminary arraignment resulted in Warren's confinement at Pike County Correctional Facility on April 5, 2017, as he was unable to post bail. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. MJ-60302-CR-0000002-2017, at *1 (Pike Cty. Magis.). On April 24, 2017, the Magisterial District Court transferred the case to the Court of Common Pleas, Pike County. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. MJ-60302-CR-0000002-2017, at *1 (Pike Cty. Magis.).

         The Hon. Gregory H. Chelak presided over the proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *1 (Pike County C.C.P.). On August 30, 2018, the information in Warren's case was amended to include a charge of 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5101, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, in addition to the sex-offender Registration Related charges. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *2 (Pike County C.C.P.). On April 30, 2018, Warren pled guilty to the obstruction charge pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5101. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *3 (Pike County C.C.P.). The sex-offender Registration Related charges were dismissed. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *3 (Pike County C.C.P.). Warren was released from incarceration at Pike County Correctional Facility on April 30, 2018 and placed on immediate parole with the requirement that he register as a sex offender within seventy-two hours. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *3 (Pike County C.C.P.).

         A review of publicly-available records indicated that Warren Jr. was no longer in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”).[1] As such, on November 5, 2018, the undersigned issued an Order to Show Cause why the Petition should not be dismissed as moot. (Doc. 16). On November 13, 2018, the Order was returned as “Undeliverable (no longer there).” (Doc. 17).

         On March 11, 2019, the undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that Warren's habeas petition be dismissed as moot because Warren was no longer in DOC custody. (Doc. 18, at 1-2). On March 19, 2019, the Report and Recommendation was returned as undeliverable. (Doc. 19). However, on April 29, 2019, Warren submitted a brief objecting to the Report and Recommendation, arguing his habeas petition was not moot. (Doc. 20, at 1). On April 30, 2019, the District Court remanded the instant matter to the undersigned for consideration of any arguments raised by Warren which might overcome the presumption of mootness with respect to his petition. (Doc. 21, at 1-2).

         II. Discussion

         In his petition, Warren sought immediate release from custody and the criminal charges against him dropped.[2] (Doc. 1, at 8). Warren claimed to be innocent of all charges brought against him in Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, at 8). However, at the time Warren filed his petition for habeas corpus, he was charged with violating the sex-offender Registration Related charges. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *2 (Pike County C.C.P.). Warren was charged pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5101, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, for the first time in the amended information filed on August 30, 2018. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *2-3 (Pike County C.C.P.). When Warren asserted his innocence of all charges brought against him in Pennsylvania, his assertion did not include the charge pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5101. Given that the sex-offender Registration Related charges from which Warren sought habeas relief were dismissed against him and he was released from Pike County Correctional Facility, the Court considers whether the petition is moot.

         “[S]ection 2241 authorizes a federal court to issue a writ of habeas corpus to any pretrial detainee who ‘is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.'” Duran v. Thomas, 393 Fed.Appx. 3, 4 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Moore v. DeYoung, 515 F.2d 437, 442 n. 5 (3d Cir. 1975)). A petitioner moving for relief under § 2241 must show that his detention violates the constitution or a federal statute. See Saunders v. Donate, No. 3:CV-08-1618, 2008 WL 4813939, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 5, 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)). Because Warren asserted that he was a detainee in state prison awaiting trial on state criminal charges, the Court considered his petition under § 2241. (Doc. 7, at 1).[3] Moreover, Warren claimed that he was innocent of the charges for which he was detained, thus arguably asserting a constitutional right, a proper ground for relief pursuant to § 2241. See Duran, 393 Fed.Appx. at 4 (quoting Moore, 515 F.2d at 442 n. 5); Saunders, 2008 WL 4813939, at *2.

         However, it is a well-established principle that federal courts do not have jurisdiction to decide an issue unless it presents a live case or controversy as required by Article III of the United States Constitution. See Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998); Burkey v. Marberry, 556 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2009). “If developments occur during the course of adjudication that eliminate a plaintiff's personal stake in the outcome of a suit or prevent a court from being able to grant the requested relief, the case must be dismissed as moot.” Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 698-99 (3d Cir. 1996). In fact, a court “may not give opinions on moot questions or declare rules of law which cannot affect the matter at issue in the case before it.” Credico v. BOP FDC Warden of Phila., 592 Fed.Appx. 55, 57 (3d Cir. 2015) (non-precedential) (citing Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992)).

         Moreover, resolution of the charges for which a pre-trial detainee is held in state prison typically moot his habeas petition. See Ali v. Common Pleas Court of Phila., Civil Action No. 15-2340, 2015 WL 9684902, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 29, 2015) (citing Thorne v. Warden, Brooklyn House of Det., 479 F.2d 297 (2d Cir. 1973); Bridges v. Lawton, Civil No. 13-3701, 2014 WL 6012976, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 3, 2011) (citing Schandelmeier v. Cunningham, 819 F.2d 52, 53 (3d Cir. 1986) (stating petitioners seeking pre-conviction relief must exhaust their state court remedies prior to filing a federal habeas petition) (report and recommendation adopted2011 WL 6012933 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2011)). 516460 (E.D.Pa. Feb. 7, 2014)) (habeas petition moot after petitioner entered guilty plea, sentenced by trial court, and no longer subject to pre-trial detention) (report and recommendation adopted2016 WL 109946 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 2016)); accord Padilla v. Brewington-Carr, No. CIV. A. 98-661, 2002 WL 100572, at *2 (D. Del. Jan. 22, 2002) (dismissing pre-trial detainee's habeas petition as moot after petitioner entered guilty plea and was sentenced).

         Here, Warren petitioned the Court pursuant to § 2241 to dismiss the sex-offender Registration Related charges against him and immediately release him from Pike County Correctional Facility's custody. (Doc. 1, at 8). The sex-offender Registration Related charges were dismissed, and Warren was released from custody at Pike County Correctional Facility, on April 30, 2018. Commonwealth v. Warren, No. CP-52-CR-0000172-2017, at *3 (Pike County C.C.P.). Therefore, in the typical case, Warren's § 2241 petition would be moot. SeeAli, 2015 WL 9684902, at *5 (citing Thome, 479 F.2d 297; Bridges, 2014 WL 516460). Because the relief Warren seeks in his petition has already occurred, the Court is unable “to grant the requested relief.” SeeBlanciak, 77 F.3d at 698-99; see alsoPiskanin v. Krysevig, 349 Fed.Appx. 683, 684-85 (3d Cir. 2009) (affirming district court's dismissal of habeas petition filed by pretrial detainee as moot where state court dismissed charges against petitioner, and he was no longer ...


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