United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
MORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Adopting Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations
Petitioner Clinton Sproles has applied for writ of habeas
corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. United States Magistrate
Judge Jeremiah Lynch issued Findings and Recommendations in
this matter on November 28, 2017. (Doc. 4.) Judge Lynch
recommended that the Court dismiss Sproles' petition
without prejudice due to the availability of state remedies
and the Younger abstention doctrine. Id. at
Court reviews de novo findings and recommendations
to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
Portions of findings and recommendations to which no party
specifically objects are reviewed for clear error.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mack,
Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981). Where a
party's objections, however, constitute perfunctory
responses argued in an attempt to engage the district court
in a relitigation of the same arguments set forth in the
original response, the Court will review for clear error the
applicable portions of the findings and recommendations.
Rosling v. Kirkegard, 2014 WL 693315 *3 (D. Mont.
Feb. 21, 2014) (internal citations omitted).
filed an objection. (Doc. 5.) The document contained the same
assertions included in the original petition regarding the
length of time Sproles has been detained pending sentencing.
(Doc. 5.) Judge Lynch considered these arguments in making
his recommendation to the Court. Thus, the Court finds no
specific objections that are not an attempt to rehash the
same arguments, and will review the Findings and
Recommendations for clear error.
challenges his detention pending sentencing stemming from a
felony Driving Under the Influence charge brought in
Montana's Second Judicial District Court, Silver Bow
County. (Doc. 1 at 5.) Sproles pleaded guilty to the DUI
charge on April 6, 2017. (Doc. 1 at 4.) After Sproles entered
his plea, the County Attorney's office filed a notice
seeking enhanced penalties by designating Sproles as a
Persistent Felony Offender. (Doc. 1 at 5.)
attorney filed a motion to dismiss the Persistent Felony
Offender designation. (Doc. 4 at 2.) Sproles also filed a pro
se petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Montana
Supreme Court. (Doc. 1 at 4.) The Montana Supreme Court
denied Sproles' petition on October 17, 2017. Sproles
v. BSB Detention Center, No, OP 17-0569, Or. at 1. The
Court found that Sproles was not eligible for habeas relief
because the matter was still pending in District Court.
Id. at 2. Sproles has yet to be sentenced, and the
District Court has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss.
Id. at 1. Once sentenced, Sproles may redress his
grievances by direct appeal. Id. at 2.
District Court has not yet ruled on Sproles' motion to
dismiss the Persistent Felony Offender designation. (Doc. 4
at 2.) The District Court has not sentenced Sproles. (Doc. 4
claims that he has been detained pending sentencing for an
unreasonable amount of time, in violation of his Fourteenth
Amendment right to due process. (Doc. 1 at 3.) He also argues
that the application of the Persistent Felony Offender
designation after his guilty plea constituted a due process
violation. (Doc. 1 at 2.) Sproles seeks dismissal of all
state charges. (Doc. 1 at 7.) Judge Lynch recommends that the
Court dismiss Sproles' petition without prejudice due to
the availability of state remedies and the Younger
abstention doctrine. (Doc. 4 at 4.)
has prohibited federal courts from granting a writ of habeas
corpus where the applicant has not "exhausted the
remedies available in the courts of the state." 28
U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). The Montana Supreme Court held
that Sproles has not exhausted the remedies available to him.
Sproles v. BSB Detention Center, No. OP 17-0569, Or.
at 2. The Court agrees with Judge Lynch's conclusion that
Sproles is thus ineligible for federal habeas relief. (Doc. 4
at 5.) Sproles may re-file upon conclusion of the state
claims further concern and challenge pending state court
criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court's decision in
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) directs
federal courts to abstain from granting injunctive or
declaratory relief that would interfere with pending state
judicial proceedings. Id. at 40-41. A federal court
must abstain under Younger if the following four
requirements are met: (1) a state initiated proceeding is
ongoing; (2) the state judicial proceeding implicates
important state interests; (3) the federal plaintiff is not
barred from litigating federal constitutional issues in the
state proceeding; and (4) the federal court action would
enjoin the state proceeding or have the practical effect of
doing so. Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 978
(9th Cir. 2004).
Court agrees with Judge Lynch's finding that all elements
of Younger abstention are established in this case.
First, there exists an ongoing criminal action against
Sproles in state court. Second, the criminal proceeding
implicates important state interests. The State of Montana
has a significant state interest in prosecuting conduct that
constitutes a criminal offense under Montana law. Third,
Sproles will have an adequate opportunity to litigate federal
constitutional issues in the state court proceeding. Fourth,
any decision by this Court as to whether Sproles' claims
constitute due process violations would unduly interfere with
the state criminal proceeding. This Court must therefore
abstain from adjudicating Sproles' claims for injunctive