United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge.
November 27, 2017, Petitioner Clinton Sproles, filed a
petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Sproles is a state prisoner proceeding
Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
has moved this Court to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2).
Although Sproles has not yet provided a copy of his inmate
trust account statement, there is no reason to delay this
matter further. Sproles' motion to proceed in forma
pauperis will be granted.
28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition
April 6, 2017, Sproles pled guilty to felony Driving Under
the Influence. (Doc. 1 at 4 ¶ 13(A)(i)); see also, (Doc.
1-1). Sproles' plea was accepted by the trial court. That
evening, the prosecuting attorney, Kelli Fivey, apparently
filed a notice seeking Sproles' treatment as a Persistent
Felony Offender. (Doc. 1-1). Sproles' attorney then filed
a motion to dismiss the Persistent Felony Offender
designation; the trial court has not yet ruled on the defense
of this year, Sproles filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus with the Montana Supreme Court, arguing his right to
due process was violated by the unreasonable amount of time
that had passed following his change of plea hearing and by
the delinquent filing of the Persistent Felony Offender
enhancement. The Montana Supreme Court held a writ of habeas
corpus was not the proper vehicle to make such a challenge.
Sproles v. BSB Detention Center, OP 17-0569, Or. at
2 (Mont. Oct. 17, 2017). The Court noted that once the trial
court ruled on Sproles' motion to dismiss the PFO
enhancement and subsequently sentenced Sproles, he would then
have the ability to file a direct appeal and that habeas
relief was not a substitute for appeal. Id. Further,
because Sproles was represented by counsel, it was
inappropriate for him to file the writ pro se. Sproles'
petition was denied.
the filing of Sproles' petition in this Court, he has not
yet been sentenced and the trial court has not ruled on his
motion to dismiss the Persistent Felony Offender designation.
(Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 4). Sproles asks this Court to dismiss
all pending state charges. Id. at 7 ¶16.
courts may not grant a writ of habeas corpus brought by an
individual in custody pursuant to a state court judgment
unless "the applicant has exhausted the remedies
available in the courts of the State." 28 U.S.C.
§2254(b)(1)(A). The exhaustion requirement is grounded
in the principles of comity and gives states the first
opportunity to correct alleged violations of a prisoner's
federal rights. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722,
the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must (1) use the
"remedies available, " § 2254(b)(1)(A),
through the state's established procedures for appellate
review, O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838,
845 (1999); (2) describe "the federal legal theory on
which his claim is based, " Davis v. Silva, 511
F.3d 1005, 1009 (9th Cir. 2008); and (3) describe "the
operative facts . .. necessary to give application to the
constitutional principle upon which the petitioner
relies." Id. See also Gray v.
Netherlands 518 U.S. 152, 162-63 (1996) (discussing
Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270 (1971) and
Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4 (1982)). A
petitioner must meet all three prongs of the test in one
review of Sproles' petition and the corresponding state
court record reveals Sproles has not yet been sentenced nor
has the trial court ruled on his motion to dismiss. Following
resolution of these matters at the trial court level, Sproles
still may pursue direct appeal and/or collateral review.
Because there are still state remedies available to Sproles,
he has not yet exhausted his claims. Consequently, this Court
cannot review them. See, Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509
(1982). Dismissal is without prejudice and Sproles may return
to this Court if and when he fully exhausts the claims
relative to his current custody in the state courts.
courts generally do not intervene in ongoing state
proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances where the risk
of irreparable harm is both great and immediate. Younger
v. Harris,401 U.S. 37, 45-46 (1971). Courts have
"long recognized that in some circumstances
considerations of comity and concerns for the orderly
administration of criminal justice require a federal court to
forego the exercise of its habeas corpus power."
Francis v. Henderson,435 U.S. 536, 539 (1976).
Younger abstention is required if the state
proceedings are: (1) ongoing; (2) implicate important state
interests; and (3) provide an adequate opportunity to
litigate federal claims. See, Middlesex County ...