CARR v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 1/13/15. 1/13/15 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE.(ti, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
PENNSYLVANIA, et al.,
January 13, 2015
On June 20, 2014, Reginald Carr filed a document entitled “Writ of Mandamus,
Habeas Corpus, Extraordinary Relief.” See Document #1. He also included an
application to proceed in forma pauperis. Mr. Carr claims that he was deprived of a fair
trial in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights because the jury found him guilty of
murder but not guilty of attempted murder where the evidence showed that both victims
were shot with the same gun at approximately the same time. He claims that the jury
must have misheard or disregarded that material evidence which rendered their verdict an
“error of law and/or a manifest injustice.” For the following reasons, I will dismiss this
petition sua sponte without prejudice.
On July 2, 2014, I ordered the Clerk of Court to furnish Mr. Carr with a blank
copy of the court’s current standard form for filing a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254, and granted his application to proceed in forma pauperis. See Document #2. On
September 18, 2014, I issued an Order indicating that I would dismiss this matter for lack
of prosecution if Mr. Carr failed to file his petition on the proper form within thirty days.
See Document #3. Mr. Carr has not filed the petition, and has not requested an extension
of time to do so.
Pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may
dismiss a claim “if the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court
Order.” Decisions regarding dismissal of actions for failure to prosecute rest in the sound
discretion of the court, and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion.
Emerson v. Thiel College, 296 F.3d 184, 190 (3d Cir. 2002). In determining whether
dismissal is appropriate, the court shall consider: (1) the extent of the party’s personal
responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling
Orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of
the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions
other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the
meritoriousness of the claim or defense. Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 747 F.2d
863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). A court may dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 41(b) sua
sponte. Caterbone v. Lancaster County Prison, 293 F.App’x 867 (3d Cir. 2008).
In this case, the Poulis factors weigh somewhat in favor of dismissal, although not
all of these factors need be met for a district court to find that dismissal is warranted.
Hicks v. Feeney, 850 F.2d 152, 156 (3d Cir. 1988). Mr. Carr is solely responsible for the
prosecution of this action. On July 2, 2014, I ordered the Clerk of Court to furnish him
with a blank copy of the court’s current standard form for filing a petition pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. That mailing was not returned as undeliverable. Over two months later, I
ordered him to file his petition within thirty days or this action would be dismissed. That
Order was also not returned as undeliverable. Thus, I must assume that Mr. Carr received
both documents. While Poulis enjoins consideration of the effectiveness of sanctions
other than dismissal, it is apparent that dismissal is the only reasonable alternative here.
Cases construing Poulis agree that when a pro se litigant fails to comply with rules or
court Orders, lesser sanctions may not be an effective alternative. See Briscoe v. Klaus,
538 F.3d 252, 262-263 (3d Cir. 2008); Emerson, 296 F.3d at 191. While Mr. Carr has yet
to respond to my Orders, he nevertheless is without the benefit of counsel, and is the sole
person responsible for failing to comply with the rules or the court’s Orders.
I note that the defendants have not been served with Mr. Carr’s petition, so any
prejudice to them is minimal at this stage of the litigation. Further, there is nothing in the
record so far which would reflect a history of dilatoriness on Mr. Carr’s part. And, it is
impossible to assign bad faith or willfulness to Mr. Carr’s conduct, especially when he
has yet to respond to my Orders or to contact chambers for an extension of time to
Notwithstanding these Poulis factors, however, this petition must be dismissed
because its claims are unexhausted and federal habeas corpus review is premature. A
review of the docket sheet in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County for this
action reveals that Mr. Carr was arrested on June 2, 2012, and the jury returned its verdict
on February 10, 2014.1 The last entry on that docket, posted on December 23, 2014,
shows that Mr. Carr is still awaiting sentencing for his conviction.
Absent exceptional circumstances, a habeas petition is not cognizable until the
petitioner has exhausted all means of available relief under state law. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(b); O’Sullivan v. Boerkel, 526 U.S. 838, 839 (1999); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S.
270, 275 (1971); Slutzker v. Johnson, 393 F.3d 373, 379 (3d Cir. 2004). A petitioner
“shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available . . . if he has the right
under the law of the state to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented.”
28 U.S.C. § 2254(c). The policy of this total exhaustion doctrine is rooted in the tradition
of comity: the state must be given the “initial opportunity to pass upon and correct
alleged violations of the petitioner's constitutional rights.” O’Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 84445; Picard, 404 U.S. at 275; Slutzker, 393 F.3d at 379. Exhaustion does not require that
the highest state court rule on the merits of the petitioner’s claims, but merely that the
court be given the opportunity to review them. Bond v. Fulcomer, 864 F.2d 306, 309 (3d
Mr. Carr must fairly present every claim included in a potential federal habeas
petition to the highest level of the state courts. O’Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 846-47; Slutzker,
393 F.3d at 379 (citing Doctor v. Walters, 96 F.2d 675, 681 (3d Cir. 1996)); Lambert v.
Blackwell, 134 F.3d 506, 513 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Toulson v. Beyer, 987 F.2d 984 (3d
Cir. 1993)). Failure to do so could result in procedural default. Coleman v. Thompson,
501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991). Given the fact that he is still awaiting sentencing, it is
apparent that Mr. Carr has not had the opportunity to present his claims to the
Commonwealth’s appellate courts. There is no reason the issues raised in his federal
petition should not first be addressed there. Thus, I cannot conclude that further state
court review is precluded. Comity requires the state courts be given the opportunity to
address Mr. Carr’s claims.
Accordingly, I will dismiss this case without prejudice because it is premature.
After Mr. Carr is sentenced and he has had an opportunity to present his claims to the
Pennsylvania courts and/or taken advantage of its post-conviction procedures, he may
return to this court to file a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.
An appropriate Order follows.
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