Reighley v. The State of Texas et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER QUASHING FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 4 SUMMONSES. The Summons is quashed and Petitioner's counsel is ordered to return it to the Clerk unserved. (Ordered by Magistrate Judge David L. Horan on 3/6/2018) (ykp)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
THE STATE OF TEXAS, ET AL.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER QUASHING FEDERAL
RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 4 SUMMONSES
Petitioner Michael Reighley, through counsel, filed a pretrial petition for writ
of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2254, requesting that the Court
intervene in his state criminal proceedings “to prevent an unlawful conviction based
on a facially unconstitutional state statute and to negate [his] continued unlawful
detention/restriction.” Dkt. No. 2. This resulting action has been referred to the
undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b) and a standing order of reference from Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn.
The same day this action was filed, the undersigned entered findings of fact,
conclusions of law, and a recommendation that the petition, construed as one under
Section 2241, be denied without prejudice to Reighley’s right to pursue and exhaust
available state court remedies. See Dkt. No. 4 (the “FCR”). The FCR, to which Reighley
filed objections, see Dkt. No. 11, is pending.
But, after entry of the FCR, Respondents Ken Paxton and William Bosworth
moved to quash the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 summonses issued to them by
Reighley. See Dkt. No. 9. Reighley has responded to the motion. See Dkt. No. 11. And
for the following reasons, the Court grants the motion to quash.
Legal Standards and Analysis
Because the motion requesting that the Rule 4 summonses be quashed will not
itself dispose of this action, a magistrate judge may rule on the motion as a pretrial
matter under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
And it does not matter for purposes of the motion to quash whether the Court
treats Reighley’s habeas petition as one under Section 2241 or Section 2254, as the
rules governing Section 2254 proceedings generally apply to proceedings under Section
2241. See RULE 1(b), RULES GOVERNING SECTION 2254 PROCEEDINGS FOR THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURTS.
Under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (“Habeas Rule 4”), a
district court may summarily dismiss a habeas application “if it plainly appears from
the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled
to relief in the district court.” Id.
This rule differentiates habeas cases from other civil cases with respect
to sua sponte consideration of affirmative defenses. The district court has
the power under Rule 4 to examine and dismiss frivolous habeas petitions
prior to any answer or other pleading by the state. This power is rooted
in “the duty of the court to screen out frivolous applications and eliminate
the burden that would be placed on the respondent by ordering an
Kiser v. Johnson, 163 F.3d 326, 328 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 Rule
4 Advisory Committee Notes).
The Advisory Committee Notes to Habeas Rule 4 further explains:
It has been suggested that an answer should be required in every habeas
proceeding, taking into account the usual petitioner’s lack of legal
expertise and the important functions served by the return. However,
under [28 U.S.C.] § 2243 it is the duty of the court to screen out frivolous
applications and eliminate the burden that would be placed on the
respondent by ordering an unnecessary answer. In addition, “notice”
pleading is not sufficient, for the petition is expected to state facts that
point to a “real possibility of constitutional error.”
RULE 4, RULES GOVERNING SECTION 2254 PROCEEDINGS
DISTRICT COURTS advisory committee’s note, 1976 Adoption (citations omitted); see also
Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 775 (1987) (“Federal courts are authorized, under
28 U.S.C. § 2243, to dispose of habeas corpus matters ‘as law and justice require.’”).
While “[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to the extent that they are not
inconsistent with any statutory provisions or [the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases]
may be applied to a [habeas] proceeding,” RULE 12, RULES GOVERNING SECTION 2254
PROCEEDINGS FOR THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTS, allowing service of a habeas
petition under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 would interfere with the Court’s duty
to screen a habeas petition under Section 2243 and Habeas Rule 4 prior to requiring
a response to the petition. Rule 4 is therefore inconsistent with the procedures
governing the Court’s management of habeas petitions. See Hutton v. West Virginia,
No. 1:13CV186, 2014 WL 856489, at *6 (N.D. W. Va. Mar. 5, 2014) (“[T]he initiation
of a habeas petition is quite different from the filing of a traditional civil complaint,
which requires a plaintiff to summon a defendant to answer, in that here, the judge
orders the respondents to answer. Moreover, no court has found that Rule 4 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applies in habeas proceedings.” (citation omitted)); see
also Schaub v. Knab, No. 3:10-cv-233, 2010 WL 2541357, at *2 (S.D. Ohio June 18,
2010) (“Under Rule 4, a habeas corpus respondent is to be served only on order of the
court. Accordingly, the Summons is quashed and Petitioner’s counsel is ordered to
return it to the Clerk unserved.” (emphasis omitted)).
The Court GRANTS Respondents’ Motion to Quash Service of Process [Dkt. No.
DATED: March 6, 2018
DAVID L. HORAN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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