United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JAMES D. KIRK, Magistrate Judge.
Pro se Petitioner, Darrell Small, filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on March 30, 2015. [Doc. #1] Petitioner is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He complains that he is being unlawfully detained in violation of the constitution of the United States.
This matter has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the Court.
Allegations and Procedural Background
Petitioner alleges that, on August 10, 2014, he was unlawfully arrested without a warrant or summons. He claims that he should have been released from jail because he did not have a probable cause hearing/determination within forty-eight hours of his arrest.
Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on February 11, 2015, in the 10th Judicial District Court, which was set for hearing on April 20, 2015.
Petitioner seeks a release from custody as well as monetary damages.
Law and Analysis
First, damages are not recoverable by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 91, (2005), citing Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749 (2004). Thus, Petitioner fails to state a claim for monetary relief.
Next, a state pre-trial detainee may challenge the power and authority of the State to bring him to trial and the constitutionality or lawfulness of his present confinement by petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Dickerson v. Louisiana, 816 F.2d 220, 224 (5th Cir. 1987). However, under § 2241 "federal 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." Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court, 410 U.S. 484, 489 (1973). The Supreme Court's discussion in Braden shows that this distinction typically turns on the type of relief sought by a petitioner: " an attempt to dismiss an indictment or otherwise prevent a prosecution" is normally not attainable through a federal habeas corpus action, while "an attempt to force the state to go to trial" is, although a requirement of exhaustion of state remedies must be met. See Brown v. Estelle, 530 F.2d 1280, 1283 (5th Cir. 1976) (emphasis added). Thus, absent "special circumstances" pre-trial habeas relief is available only to enforce a state's obligation to bring a defendant promptly to trial. Dickerson, 816 F.2d at 224. In the present case, it is clear that Petitioner's conviction is not yet final. The Court can find nothing in Petitioner's application for writ of habeas corpus that indicates "special circumstances" exist which would allow the Court to consider the merits of his claims before he has been tried.
Next, Petitioner has not shown that he exhausted his state court remedies. See Braden, 410 U.S. at 490. Although § 2241 does not contain an express exhaustion requirement, exhaustion is nevertheless required where pre-trial issues are concerned, under the theory that federal courts should abstain from interference with matters that are pending in the state courts "if the issues raised in the petition may be resolved either by a trial on the merits in the state court or by other state procedures available to the petitioner." Dickerson, 816 F.2d at 225 (citing Braden, 410 U.S. at 489-92 (citations omitted)). Thus, an exhaustion requirement for petitions filed under § 2241 has been "judicially crafted on federalism grounds in order to protect the state courts' opportunity to confront and resolve initially any constitutional issues arising within their jurisdictions as well as to limit federal interference in the state adjudicatory process." Id . (citing Braden, 410 U.S. at 490-91).
Generally, the exhaustion requirement is satisfied only when all grounds urged in a federal petition were previously presented to the state's highest court in a procedurally proper manner. See Dupuy v. Butler, 837 F.2d 699, 702 (5th Cir. 1988). Based on the information in the record, the state courts have not had the opportunity to consider or resolve the issues Petitioner raises. In fact, at the time of filing, Petitioner's state habeas petition had not yet been heard. He cannot show that the highest state court with criminal law jurisdiction has been given a fair opportunity to consider Petitioner's claims, and he has not presented exceptional circumstances that would justify this Court's intervention. Thus, comity requires this Court to defer.
In sum, Petitioner's application for federal habeas corpus relief must be dismissed because his claim is insufficient to justify federal habeas relief and because he has failed to exhaust state remedies. Pre-trial habeas relief is not available to consider his claims under the circumstances of this case, as federal habeas relief should not be used as a "pre-trial motion forum for state prisoners." Dickerson, 816 F.2d at 229. "Derailing of a pending state ...