Spears v. Dowling et al
MEMORANDUM re petr's letter 7 (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable William W. Caldwell on 4/12/17. (ma)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ANDTHONY RAY SPEARS,
A. DOWLING, et al.,
CIVIL NO. 1:CV-17-0172
On January 16, 2017, the pro se petitioner, Andthony Ray Spears, a state
prisoner currently confined at the Benner Township State Correctional Institution in
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, filed this habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
(ECF No. 1, Pet.) In his Petition, Spears expresses his frustration with the state court’s
delay in the resolution of his Post-Conviction Relief Act Petition (PCRA), 42 PA. CONS.
STAT. Ann. §§ 9541 et seq. Spears specifically asks us not “to rule on the merits of his
PCRA, [but rather,] only to enforce the Common Pleas Court of Dauphin County, via Judge
Dowling, to do so in a timely manner.” (ECF No. 1, p. 7).
Presently before us is Spears’ April 1, 2017, letter seeking “to formally
withdraw [his] habeas petition.” (ECF No. 7). For the reasons set forth below, Spears’
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, really a petition for a
writ of mandamus, will be deemed withdrawn.
Standard of Review
The power of federal courts to issue writs of mandamus is defined by 28
U.S.C. § 1361, which provides that:
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in
the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the
United States or any agency therefor to perform a duty owed to the
28 U.S.C. § 1361. Mandamus is a drastic remedy available only in the most extraordinary
circumstances. See Kerr v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 426 U.S. 394, 402, 96 S.Ct. 2119, 2123, 48
L.Ed.2d 725 (1976); In re Diet Drugs Prods. Liab. Litig., 418 F.3d 372, 378 (3d Cir. 2005).
“It is the nature of the document, rather than the label attached by the litigant,
that controls.” Madden v. Myers, 102 F.3d 74, 78 (3d Cir. 1996). Here, Petitioner makes it
clear that he is not asking the court to rule on the merits of his PCRA petition nor is he
seeking § 2254 relief. Instead, he is requesting that we direct the state court to address his
pending PCRA petition. Thus while Spears invokes habeas relief under § 2241, his petition
is really one in mandamus. Unfortunately, as Judge Dowling, a state court judge, is not an
employee of the United States, we cannot provide Spears with the relief he seeks.
We observe that, if Spears wishes, he may file a habeas petition pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction. In that petition, he may argue that the state
court’s “inexcusable and inordinate” delay in resolving his PCRA petition should excuse his
obligation to exhaust his state-court remedies. We express no opinion on whether such an
argument would be successful.
Given Spears’ wishes to withdraw his 2241 petition, we will grant that
request, without prejudice to his pursuit of other remedies.
/s/ William W. Caldwell
William W. Caldwell
United States District Judge
Date: April 12, 2017
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