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Walton v. 14th Judicial District Court

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

March 5, 2018

DAVIN J. WALTON
v.
14TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT

         SECTION P

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KATHLEEN KAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is a Motion to Stay [doc. 26] filed by petitioner Davin J. Walton, relating to his Amended Petition [doc. 17] seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Walton was on pretrial detention and then serving his sentence at the Academy of Training Skills (“ATS”) in Lacassine, Louisiana, but has apparently left that placement without permission. Doc. 28, att. 1, p. 109.

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636. For reasons stated below, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the Motion to Stay [doc. 26] be DENIED and that this matter be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as moot.

         I.

         Background

         Walton brought this action to challenge his pretrial detention and the state courts' handling of his claim relating to the failure of the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney's Office (“CPDAO”) to timely file a bill of information. He did not seek review in the Louisiana Supreme Court and maintained that “[a]ny further attempt to exhaust state court remedies . . . would be a patently futile course of action.” Doc. 17, p. 6. Instead, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court. Doc. 1. After review of his petition we appointed counsel to assist him in his case, and an amended petition was filed with the assistance of that counsel. Docs. 14, 17. We then granted Walton's motion for an order to show cause, and the CPDAO filed a response in opposition to the petition. See docs. 18, 22.

         The CPDAO opposed the petition and argued for its dismissal on multiple grounds, including Younger abstention. Doc. 22. Argument was heard and evidence received at a hearing conducted on November 2, 2017, at the conclusion of which we announced that a report and recommendation would follow. Doc. 23. Walton then filed a Motion to Stay on January 15, 2018, stating that he might be released from custody soon which would render his petition moot. Doc. 26. The CPDAO filed an opposition to the motion. There it explained that Walton had entered into a plea deal, accepted by the state district court on November 13, 2017, by which he pleaded guilty to a charge of monetary instrument abuse, the other charges were dismissed outright by the state, and Walton was to remain at ATS for the rest of his sentence. Doc. 28, p. 6; doc. 28, att. 1, pp. 104-05. However, “[o]n January 2, 2018, ten days from release . . . [Walton] absconded and his current whereabouts are unknown.” Doc. 28, p. 6; see doc. 28, att. 1, p. 109. Accordingly, CPDAO maintains, a stay would be inappropriate because his flight has rendered him ineligible for release. Doc. 28, p. 6. In its response it also seeks a dismissal of Walton's request for habeas relief. Id.

         II.

         Law & Analysis

         A. Motion to Stay

         The circumstances on which Walton sought to have consideration of this matter stayed have changed, and he has not presented new grounds warranting a delay in the court's consideration of his amended petition. Accordingly, the Motion to Stay should be denied.

         B. Dismissal

         When a federal court has jurisdiction over an action, its “obligation to hear and decide a case is virtually unflagging.” Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs, 134 S.Ct. 584, 591 (2013) (quotations omitted). However, the court must abstain from exercising its jurisdiction under Younger v. Harris, 91 S.Ct. 746 (1971), in cases requiring interference in ongoing state proceedings in certain circumstances, including state criminal prosecutions. New Orleans Publ. Serv., Inc. v. Council of City of New Orleans, 109 S.Ct. 2506, 2518 (1989). Here, as the CPDAO admits, Walton's guilty plea has been accepted and the remaining charges for which he was in pretrial custody have been dismissed. Accordingly, Younger is no longer applicable because the state criminal prosecution is no ...


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