CAVANAUGH v. NADROWSKI
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER that Petitioner's letters, construed as motions of reconsideration, 19 and 24 , are denied. Petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis for the purposes of appeal, 21 , is denied. The Clerk of the Court shall serve this Order upon Petitioner by regular mail, and shall Close the file. Signed by Judge Brian R. Martinotti on 4/13/2017. (mps)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
TRAVIS ANDREW CAVANAUGH,
Civil Action No.: 15-3537-BRM
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed
by Petitioner Travis Andrew Cavanaugh (“Petitioner”), a pretrial detainee. The Petition seeks
relief, under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, asserting Petitioner’s speedy trial right has been violated in a state
criminal proceeding. The Court previously denied the Petition, on December 21, 2016, finding
Petitioner’s speedy trial right was not violated because the delay to trial was caused entirely by his
counsel’s assertion of mental fitness and insanity defenses. (ECF No. 17.) Presently before the
Court are Petitioner’s letters challenging this ruling, which the Court construes as motions for
reconsideration. (ECF Nos. 19 & 24.)
To prevail on a motion for reconsideration, Petitioner must show: (1) an intervening change
in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court .
. . [rendered the judgment in question]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to
prevent manifest injustice. U.S. ex rel. Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharm. L.P., 769 F.3d 837, 84849 (3d Cir. 2014); see also Buzz Bee Toys, Inc. v. Swimways Corp., 20 F. Supp. 3d 483, 515 (D.N.J.
The only argument Petitioner makes in his letters is that “while the plea of NGRI [Not
Guilty by Reason of Insanity] may be available that doesn’t mean the defendant has to use it or
can be coerced into using it (by counsel).” (ECF No. 19 at 2.) Petitioner further argues he “still has
the right to a speedy trial meaning they can either find me incompetent and drop the charges or
take me to trial they can't just leave me sitting here like this which is a speedy trial violation.” (Id.)
While this argument raises concerns about whether Petitioner’s counsel fully discussed and
explained the consequences of asserting mental capacity and insanity defenses, counsel’s conduct
is nonetheless attributed to Petitioner for the purposes of a federal habeas claim. See Vermont v.
Brillon, 556 U.S. 61, 85 (2009) (“Assigned counsel, just as retained counsel, act on behalf of their
clients, and delays sought by counsel are ordinarily attributable to the defendants they represent.”).
Petitioner may seek to assert an ineffective assistance of counsel claim once his criminal matter
concludes, but that is of no relevance to the instant Petition.
Furthermore, Petitioner’s argument seems to indicate he is under the impression that, if he
is found not guilty by reason of insanity, the charges against him would be dropped and he would
be released from custody. That is hardly the case. Under New Jersey law, once a defendant has
been found not guilty by reason of insanity, in many cases, the defendant becomes subject to an
order of involuntary civil commitment, not unlike the conditions under which Petitioner is
currently being held. 1 See State v. Krol, 68 N.J. 236, 243 (1975). As stated above, the Court is
unable to determine, at this time, whether Petitioner’s counsel fully explained the consequences of
an insanity defense to Petitioner, but nothing in the record before this Court suggests that counsel
is acting to the detriment of Petitioner’s interests. Because the defenses of mental capacity and
As the Court previously noted, Petitioner is currently under an involuntary commitment order
due to the trial court’s finding that he is not fit for trial and is a danger to himself and the
community. (ECF No. 17 at 2.)
insanity go hand-in-hand, the Court cannot say the assertion of these defenses, which has caused
the delay to trial, is a constitutionally unsound strategy requiring some sort of immediate habeas
relief from this Court. “[F]ederal habeas corpus does not lie, absent ‘special circumstances,’ to
adjudicate the merits of an affirmative defense to a state criminal charge prior to a judgment of
conviction by a state court.” Evans v. Ct. of Common Pleas, Del. Cty, Pa., 959 F.2d 1227, 1234
(3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Braden v. 30th Judicial Cir. Ct. of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 489 (1973)).
Accordingly, the Court finds Petitioner has not stated a valid reason for the Court to reconsider its
denial of the Petition and, therefore, his motions for reconsideration are DENIED.
Finally, also before the Court is Petitioner’s application to proceed in forma pauperis
(“IFP”), filed for the purposes of appeal, which the Court construes as an application under Fed.
R. App. P. 24(a)(1). (ECF No. 21.) The Court has reviewed the application, and finds Petitioner
has failed to establish that he is unable to pay for fees and costs. In the application, Petitioner
attaches a prison account statement, which shows that from September 2, 2016 to March 1, 2017,
Petitioner had income totaling $1,376.16, or an average exceeding $200.00 a month. Indeed,
Petitioner had an account balance of $425.91 at the end of this period, with a high balance of
$652.48 during that period.
In Shahin v. Sec. of Del., 532 F. App’x 123, 124 (3d Cir. 2013), the Third Circuit upheld
an IFP denial by the district court, even when the plaintiff showed that she only had a monthly
income of $95 from self-employment. Because the plaintiff was provided, by her husband, “with
food, clothing, shelter, paying her medical and travel expenses and even her business losses,” the
Third Circuit reasoned, “requiring [plaintiff] to pay her own litigation expenses, although requiring
her to save for several months, would not deprive her of the ‘necessities of life.’” Id. Here,
Petitioner’s income is more than twice the $95/month threshold established in Shahin, and Plaintiff
admits he is currently incarcerated, so he has his food, clothing, shelter, and medical expenses paid
for by the prison. The Court recognizes that the filing fee on appeal is significantly higher than
the filing fee in this Court, particularly for a habeas petition. However, like the plaintiff in Shahin,
Petitioner may have to save up in order to pay the filing fee, but such requirement “would not
deprive [him] of the ‘necessities of life.’” 532 F. App’x at 124. Accordingly,
IT IS on this 13th day of April, 2017,
ORDERED that the Clerk shall REOPEN the case by making a new and separate docket
entry reading “CIVIL CASE REOPENED”; it is further
ORDERED that Petitioner’s letters, construed as motions of reconsideration, ECF Nos. 19
& 24, are hereby DENIED; it is further
ORDERED that Petitioner’s application to proceed in forma pauperis for the purposes of
appeal, ECF No. 21, is hereby DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that that the Clerk shall serve this Order upon Petitioner by regular mail, and
shall CLOSE the file.
____/s/ Brian R. Martinotti________
HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI
United States District Judge
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