Burnham v. Koutoujian et al
Judge Indira Talwani: ORDER entered denying Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus 1 ; denying as moot 7 Motion for Production of Medical and Psychiatric Records and a Record of Every Access to Data by Persons outside of or other than the Holder; granting 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. [Copy of order sent to petitioner by first class mail on 7/7/2017.] (PSSA, 3)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
PETER J. KOUTOUJIAN, et al.,
Civil Action No. 17-cv-10992-IT
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
July 6, 2017
Petitioner Arthur Burnham, a state pretrial detainee, has filed a Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [#1], a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
[#2], and a Motion for Production of Medical and Psychiatric Records and a Record of Every
Access to Data by Persons outside of or other than the Holder [#7]. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis is ALLOWED, the petition is
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and the motion for records is DENIED AS MOOT.
Petitioner represents that he was indicted in June 2015 on charges arising from
allegations that he lit a municipal police car on fire. He claims that his continued confinement
and the prosecution against him in Worcester Superior Court violate his federal rights to due
process, a speedy trial, equal protection, and effective assistance of counsel. He asks that the
state court indictment against him be dismissed with prejudice and that he be released. See Pet. at
8. Petitioner represents that he unsuccessfully sought relief from a single justice of the Supreme
Judicial Court on these issues under M.G.L. ch. 211, § 3. See Pet. at 2. 1
Petitioner submitted with his petition a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in
which he represents that he is without income or assets. Included in the exhibits to the petition is
a document suggesting that he has been without any income or assets since his arrival at the
Middlesex County Jail; the document appears to be signed by a jail official. See Pet. Exhs. at 38
[#1-1]. Petitioner later filed a motion for the production of his certain records.
Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
Upon review of Petitioner’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court
concludes that he is without income or assets to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, the motion is
Review of the Petition
Persons “in custody in violation of the Constitutions or laws or treaties of the United
States” may challenge their detention by seeking a writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3).
The instant petition is properly brought pursuant to § 2241 because Burnham is a pretrial
detainee. See Gonzalez v. Justices of Mun. Ct. of Boston, 382 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2004), rev’d on
other grounds, 544 U.S. 918 (2005). Nonetheless, a district court is not required to serve a habeas
petition on the respondent if “it appears from the application [for a writ of habeas corpus] that
the applicant . . . is not entitled [to the writ].” 28 U.S.C. § 2243 para. 1.
Petitioner does not state whether he appealed the final judgment of the single justice to the full
court of the Supreme Judicial Court. See M.G.L. ch. 231, § 114 (“A party aggrieved by a final
judgment of a single justice of the supreme judicial court may appeal therefrom to the full court
of the supreme judicial court.”). For purposes of this order, the court assumes that Burnham has
exhausted his state remedies.
“[F]ederal courts have long recognized ‘the fundamental policy against federal
interference with state criminal proceedings.’” In re Justices of Superior Ct. Dep’t of Mass. Trial
Ct., 218 F.3d 11, 16 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 46 (1971)).
Congress has long expressed its policy that “the state courts be allowed to conduct state
proceedings free from interference by the federal courts.” Id. at 16. This policy against “federal
interference with state judicial proceedings is premised on ‘a proper respect for state functions, a
recognition of the fact that the entire country is made up of a Union of separate state
governments, and a continuance of the belief that the National Government will fare best if the
States and their institutions are left free to perform their separate functions in their separate
ways.’” Id. (quoting Younger, 401 U.S. at 44). Under the principles of Younger abstention, “a
federal court must abstain from hearing a case if doing so would ‘needlessly inject’ the federal
court into ongoing state proceedings.” Coggeshall v. Mass. Bd. of Registration of Psychologists,
604 F.3d 658, 664 (1st Cir. 2010) (quoting Brooks v. N.H. Supreme Ct., 80 F.3d 633, 637 (1st
“The applicability of comity and abstention principles to habeas proceedings” has been
“amply demonstrated.” In re Justices, 218 F.3d 11, 17. With few exceptions, “the federal courts
have routinely rejected petitions for pretrial habeas relief raising any variety of claims and
issues.” Id. at 18 (footnote omitted). One exception is for claims of a violation of a defendant’s
right to a speedy trial, but only “when the requested relief is an immediate trial.” Id. at 18 n.5.
When a pretrial petitioner claiming a speedy trial violation “seeks dismissal of the charges
against him, his habeas action must await the conclusion of state proceedings.” Id.
Burnham claims, inter alia, that his right to a speedy trial has been violated. The relief he
explicitly requests is dismissal of the pending criminal charges against him. Because he seeks
dismissal of his criminal case rather than an immediate trial, principles of Younger abstention
require that his court abstain from exercising jurisdiction over this case. Accordingly, the petition
is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
For the foregoing reasons, the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241 [#1] is DENIED; the Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis [#2] is
GRANTED; and the Motion for Production of Medical and Psychiatric Records and a Record of
Every Access to Data by Persons outside of or other than the Holder [#7] is DENIED AS
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: July 6, 2017
/s/ Indira Talwani
United States District Judge
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