BRITTON v. LANIGAN et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 9/27/17. (jbk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 17-3701 (JBS)
GARY LANIGAN, et al.,
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Before the Court is Petitioner Lonnie Britton’s petition
for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Docket
Entry 3. Based on Petitioner’s affidavit of indigency, the Court
will grant his in forma pauperis application. See Docket Entry
Petitioner, a state-sentenced inmate incarcerated at
South Woods State Prison, submitted over 500 pages spanning 5
envelopes for a civil rights complaint. See Britton v. City of
Atlantic, No. 17-1986 (D.N.J. filed April 4, 2017). As portions
of the received documents indicated he wished to file a
“protective petition” under Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408
(2005), the Court ordered the Clerk’s Office to create a
separate proceeding to consider under § 2254.
The Court thereafter administratively terminated the
petition and directed Petitioner to submit his § 2254 claims on
the form provided by the Clerk. June 6, 2017 Order, Docket Entry
Petitioner submitted the form and the Court reopened
the matter for review.
Section 2254(a) of Title 28 provides in relevant part:
(a) [A] district court shall 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).
Habeas Rule 4 requires the assigned judge to sua
sponte dismiss a habeas petition or application without ordering
a responsive pleading under certain circumstances:
The clerk must promptly forward the petition to a judge
under the court's assignment procedure, and the judge
must promptly examine it. 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...
28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 4.
Habeas Rule 2 provides in relevant part:
(c) Form. The petition must:
(1) specify all the grounds for relief available to the
(2) state the facts supporting each ground;
(3) state the relief requested;
(4) be printed, typewritten, or legibly handwritten; and
(5) be signed under penalty of perjury ...
28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c).
The Supreme Court explained the habeas pleading
requirements as follows:
proceedings, a complaint need only provide “fair notice
of what the plaintiff's claim is, and the grounds upon
which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
(1957). Habeas Rule 2(c) is more demanding. It provides
that the petition must “specify all the grounds for
relief available to the petitioner” and “state the facts
supporting each ground.” See also Advisory Committee's
note on subd. (c) of Habeas Corpus Rule 2, 28 U.S.C., p.
469 (“In the past, petitions have frequently contained
mere conclusions of law, unsupported by any facts. [But]
it is the relationship of the facts to the claim asserted
that is important....”); Advisory Committee's Note on
Habeas Corpus Rule 4, 28 U.S.C., p. 471 (“‘[N]otice’
pleading is not sufficient, for the petition is expected
to state facts that point to a real possibility of
A prime purpose of Rule 2(c)'s demand that habeas
petitioners plead with particularity is to assist the
district court in determining whether the State should
be ordered to “show cause why the writ should not be
granted.” § 2243. Under Habeas Corpus Rule 4, if “it
plainly appears from the petition ... that the
petitioner is not entitled to relief in district court,”
the court must summarily dismiss the petition without
ordering a responsive pleading.
Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 655 (2005).
“Federal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily
any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its
face.” McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994). The United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has found summary
dismissal without the filing of an answer warranted where none
of the grounds alleged in the petition would entitle the
petitioner to habeas relief, see United States v. Thomas, 221
F.3d 430, 437 (3d Cir. 2000), or the petition contains vague and
conclusory allegations, see United States v. Dawson, 857 F.2d
923, 928 (3d Cir. 1988).
Petitioner appears to raise six grounds for relief.
The first ground asserts: “The initial complaint is a legal
fiction derived under the color of state law through
administrative directives a has a [sic] policy that deprives due
process, which forgo’s corpus delicti as the basis for subject
matter jurisdiction.” Petition ¶ 12. He lists as the supporting
facts: “The information displayed in the initail [sic]
complaint/complimentary dispute resolution form is exhibited for
a matter merely criminal, and the complain [sic] specifically
invoke’s [sic] the jurisdiction of the admiralty side of the
court, so as to ensure that the action does not proceed on the
law side.” Id.
The second ground states: “Before the jurisdiction of
this Court all right’s where reserved under protest . . .
without prejudice.” Id. (ellipses in original). For supporting
facts, Petitioner writes: “On August 19, 2014 before the trial
court in the hearing conducted in a court of record I made the
exclusive reservation in court [before] Hon. Bernard Delury
Preliminary hearing also the office of public defender withdrew
as counsel from representing my case.”
The third ground appears to allege trial counsel was
ineffective, and the fourth ground alleges the trial court erred
in denying Petitioner’s motion to represent himself.
Ground Five states: “This petitioner was denied the
conditional acceptance and exemption supported by state law as a
remedy in honor of the claims of offense.” He further states “On
May 22, 2015 I, submitted simultaneously ‘Commercial
Affidavit’s’ [sic] with exhibit’s [sic] for proof of claim and
Conditional Acceptance to Atlantic County Criminal Case Mgt and
prosecuting office . . . .” (emphasis omitted).
Ground Six alleges: “The trial court’s [sic] rejected
my colorable claim of relief and dispute of fact’s: That I, am a
Beneficiary of the Trust: Cestui Que Trust.” He proceeds to make
vague assertions of errors committed by the trial court and
trial counsel during the plea negotiations and colloquy.
Ground One is clearly meritless and does not warrant
an answer from the State. Although challenges to the
jurisdiction of the trial court and validity of the complaint
would be appropriately raised in a § 2254 proceeding, the stated
facts in support indicate Petitioner asserts the trial court was
acting as a maritime court under admiralty jurisdiction. This is
a patently frivolous legal argument to which no answer is
required. As such, this ground is summarily dismissed with
In its present form, Ground Two fails to set forth
grounds for relief. Petitioner does not state what objections he
made in the trial court on August 19, 2014, and “[t]he law does
not require, nor does justice demand, that a judge must grope
though [over 500 pages] of irrational, prolix and redundant
pleadings, containing matters foreign to the issue involved in a
proceeding for a writ of habeas corpus, in order to determine
the grounds of petitioner's complaint.” Passic v. State, 98 F.
Supp. 1015, 1016–17 (E.D. Mich. 1951). Petitioner may amend this
claim by clearly stating the constitutional right or federal law
that is alleged to have been violated and by supplying specific
facts and references to the record that support his argument.
Based on this Court’s review of the petition, only
Grounds Two, Three, and Four may state a claim for relief under
§ 2254. However, these grounds require more specific facts in
support of Petitioner’s claims. In the interests of justice, the
Court will provide Petitioner with one final chance to submit a
petition that clearly sets forth the grounds for relief and the
facts that support those claims.
Grounds One, Five, and Six are based on indisputably
frivolous arguments, such as Petitioner being the beneficiary of
a trust and his U.C.C. arguments, that do not provide a basis
for habeas relief. Grounds One, Five, and Six are dismissed with
prejudice and may not be included in the amended petition.
Petitioner should submit his amended petition
addressing Grounds Two, Three, and Four within 30 days.
If the Court does not receive an amended petition
within 30 days, it will direct the State to answer only Grounds
Three and Four. The other grounds will be summarily dismissed.
An appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
September 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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