Lightfeather v. Lancaster County
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER regarding: Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus 1 filed by Austin Edward Lightfeather. The petition for writ of habeas corpus, Filing No. 1, and any supplements or amendments thereto, is dismissed without prejudice. No certificate of appealability has been or will be issued. The Court will enter judgment by separate document. Ordered by Senior Judge Joseph F. Bataillon. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(SLP)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
AUSTIN EDWARD LIGHTFEATHER,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on initial review of Petitioner Austin Edward
Lightfeather’s (“Lightfeather”) Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241. Filing No. 1. The Court conducts this initial review of the petition
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 1(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254
Cases in the United States District Courts which allows the Court to apply Rule 4 of
those rules to a section 2241 action. For purposes of this initial review, the Court will
consider Lightfeather’s supplemental filings, Filing No. 3 and Filing No. 9, as part of the
petition. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss Lightfeather’s petition
At the time he filed his petition on October 7, 2022, Lightfeather was a state
pretrial detainee in the custody of Lancaster County, Nebraska, but was confined in a
Nebraska Department of Correctional Services’ facility for a pre-sentencing evaluation.
Filing No. 1 at 1–2, 4. According to Lightfeather’s state court records, available to this
Court online, 1 Lightfeather entered a plea of no contest to one count of attempted firstdegree assault, a Class IIA felony, on August 23, 2022, and the State dismissed one
Nebraska’s judicial records may
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count of burglary, a Class IIA felony. On September 23, 2022, the District Court of
Lancaster County, Nebraska committed Lightfeather to the NDCS for no more than 90
days in order for the NDCS to conduct a complete pre-sentencing study of Lightfeather
pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2204(4). Thereafter, on December 30, 2022, the state
district court sentenced Lightfeather to 16 to 18 years’ imprisonment with credit for 903
days served. The Court takes judicial notice of the state court records related to this
case in State v. Lightfeather, No. CR21-1243, District Court of Lancaster County,
Nebraska. See Stutzka v. McCarville, 420 F.3d 757, 760 n.2 (8th Cir. 2005) (court may
take judicial notice of judicial opinions and public records).
Lightfeather’s petition and supplements consist of 26 pages of handwritten, freeflowing narrative that is rambling and difficult to decipher. As best the Court can tell,
Lightfeather seeks release from detention “based on [his] treatment emposed [sic] on
[him] by . . . Lancaster County.” Filing No. 1 at 6. The treatment of which Lightfeather
complains includes, inter alia, lack of proper medical treatment, inadequate food, cold
room temperatures, mistreatment from jail officers, and forced medication injections.
Filing No. 1. Lightfeather makes a request for damages based on the forced medication
injections given to him, Filing No. 3 at 4, and also asks this Court to review the denial of
his state writ of habeas corpus in Lancaster County District Court case number CI223571, Filing No. 9 at 2–4, 9–10.
As an initial matter, Lightfeather cannot seek an award of damages in this federal
habeas action as claims for damages related to a prisoner’s conditions of confinement
must be sought in an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Supreme Court has explained:
As the United States
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Federal law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to
imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a
complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Challenges to the validity of any
confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of
habeas corpus, Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973); requests
for relief turning on circumstances of confinement may be presented in a §
Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004). See also Preiser, 411 U.S. at 494 (“If a
state prisoner is seeking damages, he is attacking something other than the fact or
length of his confinement, and he is seeking something other than immediate or more
speedy release—the traditional purpose of habeas corpus. In the case of a damages
claim, habeas corpus is not an appropriate or available federal remedy.”).
Secondly, the Court cannot review the denial of Lightfeather’s state habeas
“Rooker-Feldman provides that jurisdiction to review state court
decisions rests with superior state courts and the Supreme Court of the United States,
not with federal district courts.” Parker L. Firm v. Travelers Indem. Co., 985 F.3d 579,
584 (8th Cir. 2021); see also Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District
of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).
More importantly, because Lightfeather has now been convicted, his challenge to
his pretrial detention is moot, and his petition must be dismissed. See Jackson v.
Clements, 796 F.3d 841, 843 (7th Cir. 2015) (“Once Mr. Jackson was convicted, the
claims concerning his pre-trial confinement became moot.”); Williams v. Slater, 317
Fed.Appx. 723, 724–25 (10th Cir. 2008); Yohey v. Collins, 985 F.2d 222, 228–29 (5th
Cir. 1993) (“[C]laims for federal habeas relief for pretrial issues are mooted by Yohey’s
subsequent conviction.”); Thorne v. Warden, Brooklyn House of Detention for Men, 479
F.2d 297, 299 (2d Cir. 1973); Medina v. California, 429 F.2d 1392, 1393 (9th Cir. 1970).
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To be clear, the Court is dismissing Lightfeather’s § 2241 petition without
prejudice for lack of jurisdiction and makes no findings regarding the merits of
Lightfeather’s claims. Thus, the dismissal of this case will not preclude Lightfeather
from reasserting any claims challenging the lawfulness of his conviction in a habeas
petition filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 2 after proper exhaustion of his claims in state
court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1).
Because “the detention complained of arises from process issued by a state
court,” Lightfeather must obtain a certificate of appealability. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253;
Fed. R. App. P. 22(b)(1); see also Hoffler v. Bezio, 726 F.3d 144, 153 (2d Cir. 2013)
(collecting cases of courts that ruled a state prisoner who petitions for habeas relief
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 must obtain a certificate of appealability). The standards for
certificates (1) where the district court reaches the merits or (2) where the district court
rules on procedural grounds are set forth in Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484–85
The Court has applied the appropriate standard and determined that
Lightfeather is not entitled to a certificate of appealability.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:
The petition for writ of habeas corpus, Filing No. 1, and any supplements
or amendments thereto, is dismissed without prejudice. No certificate of appealability
has been or will be issued.
The Court will enter judgment by separate document.
Section 2254 confers jurisdiction on district courts to “entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus
in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
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Dated this 18th day of January, 2023.
BY THE COURT:
Joseph F. Bataillon
Senior United States District Judge
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