Smith v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry). Signed by Honorable Yvette Kane on 4/28/17. (rw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CHARLES E. SMITH,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYVANIA,
Pending before the court is a petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed on March 8, 2017, by
Charles E. Smith, a state pretrial detainee, confined at the
Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1.)
Along with the petition Smith filed a motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2.)
The petition has been given
preliminary consideration and, for the reasons discussed below,
the court will dismiss this action without prejudice because there
are ongoing state court criminal proceedings. See R. GOVERNING §
2254 CASES R. 4.1
On or about July 6, 2016, Smith was arrested and detained by
the Harrisburg Police Department on felony drug charges, including
drug delivery resulting in death. (Doc. No. 1.)
The charges were
returned and Smith was bound over to the Court of Common Pleas of
1. Rule 4 states in pertinent part that “[t]he 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 . . . .”
Dauphin County for trial.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles
Bail was set at “$10,000/10
percent” and Smith is presently detained because he was unable to
post $1000 representing the 10%.
(Doc. 1, at 18.) The docket of
the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County reveals that Smith was
formally arraigned on an Information filed by the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania charging him with drug delivery resulting in death
and delivery of drugs on November 18, 2016 and he was scheduled to
appear at a plea hearing on December 27, 2016, before President
Judge Richard A. Lewis of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin
That hearing was continued twice and was scheduled for
April 11, 2017.
On April 13, 2017, President Judge Lewis issued
an order scheduling a hearing for May 5, 2017 on all outstanding
Furthermore, on February 6, 2016, President Judge Lewis
issued an order denying Smith’s motion for nominal bail pursuant
to Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.
state court docket does not reveal that Smith sought appellate
review of that order.
Generally, federal courts must adjudicate all cases and
controversies that are properly before them. New Orleans Pub.
2. The court utilized the Unified Judicial System of
Pennsylvania Web Portal to review the docket of the criminal case
pending against Smith in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin
County. A district court may take judicial notice of proceedings
in another court. See United States v. Wilson, 631 F.2d 118 (9th
Cir. 1980); Hayes v. Woodford, 444 F.Supp.2d 1127, (S.D. Cal.
2006)(“[F]ederal courts may take judicial notice of other courts’
proceedings, within the federal judiciary and without, if the
proceedings directly relate to the matter before the court.”).
Serv., Inc. v. City of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 358, 109 S.Ct.
2506, 105 L.Ed.2d 298 (1989). Abstention, however, “is the
judicially created doctrine under which a federal court will
decline to exercise its jurisdiction so that a state court or
state agency will have the opportunity to decide the matters at
issue.” Heritage Farms, Inc. v. Solebury Twp., 671 F.2d 743, 746
(3d Cir.1982). In Younger v. Harris, the United States Supreme
Court “established a principle of abstention when federal
adjudication would disrupt an ongoing state criminal proceeding.”
Yi Yang v. Tsui, 416 F.3d 199, 202 (3d Cir.2005) (discussing
Younger, 401 U.S. 37 (1971)). The Younger Court based its decision
on the principles of comity and “the longstanding public policy
against federal court interference with state court proceedings.”
Younger, 401 U.S. at 43. Absent extraordinary circumstances,3
Younger abstention will apply when the following three
requirements are met: “(1) there are ongoing state proceedings
that are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings implicate
important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an
3. Even when all requirements are met, Younger abstention is not
appropriate when “(1) the state proceedings are being undertaken
in bad faith or for purposes of harassment or (2) some other
extraordinary circumstances exist, such as proceedings pursuant
to a flagrantly unconstitutional statute ....” Schall v. Joyce,
885 F.2d 101, 106 (3d Cir.1989). These exceptions are to be
narrowly construed. Loftus v. Township of Lawrence Park, 764 F.
Supp. 354, 357 (W.D. Pa. 1991). Wood has failed to show that he
falls within any of the narrow exceptions to the Younger
adequate opportunity to raise the federal claims.”
Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 670 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoting Addiction
Specialists, Inc. v. Twp. of Hampton, 411 F.3d 399, 408 (3d Cir.
Indeed, “[i]n no area of the law is the need for a
federal court to stay its hand pending completion of state
proceedings more evident than in the case of pending criminal
Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, 959 F.2d 1227, 1234
(3d Cir. 1992).
Smith makes a vague argument that the state criminal charges
violate his rights under the United States Constitution.
requests that he be released from custody because the facts of the
case do not support the charges.
Smith is raising issues
regarding the propriety of his arrest which should first be
addressed by the state courts.
It is clear that Smith claims
concerning his ongoing criminal proceedings satisfy the
requirements of abstention, and the instant habeas action does not
raise the type of extraordinary circumstances contemplated under
Younger. Thus, under the present circumstances, the Court
concludes that it is appropriate to abstain from entertaining the
petition, as abstention is required out of deference to the
integrity of the state judicial process.
petition will be dismissed without prejudice.4
4. Furthermore, a state prisoner must exhaust all available
state judicial remedies before filing a petition for habeas
corpus in federal court. 28 U.S.C. Sections 2254(b) and (c).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), unless a circuit justice or
judge issues a certificate of appealability (“COA”), an appeal may
not be taken from a final order in a proceeding under 28 U.S.C. §
2254. A COA may issue only if the applicant has made a substantial
showing of the denial of a constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2). “A petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating
that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court’s
resolution of his constitutional claims or that jurists could
conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve
encouragement to proceed further.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S.
322 (2003). “When the district court denies a habeas petition on
procedural grounds without reaching the prisoner’s underlying
constitutional claim, a COA should issue when the prisoner shows,
at least, that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether
the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a
constitutional right and that jurists of reason would find it
debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural
Neither an intractable jurisdictional prerequisite nor "a mere
. . . [the exhaustion requirement] serves the
interests of comity between the federal and state systems by
allowing the state an initial opportunity to determine and
correct any violations of a prisoner's federal rights." Gibson
v. Scheidemantel, 805 F.2d 135, 138 (3d Cir. 1986). Exhaustion
also "protect[s] the state court's role in the enforcement of
federal law and prevent[s] disruption of state judicial
proceedings." Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982). In light
of the fact that criminal proceedings are still pending in state
court, it is clear that Smith has not exhausted all of his state
ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). Here,
jurists of reason would not find the procedural disposition of
this case debatable. Accordingly, no COA will issue.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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