United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
AMENDED ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION OF
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge
case comes before the Court on Petitioner Robert
Stearns's application for writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. §2254, filed January 29, 2018. Stearns is a state
prisoner proceeding pro se.
was one of a group of petitioners that joined in filing what
they characterized as an “En Masse Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus- 28 U.S.C. § 2254 as per Rule 23 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” (Doc. 2). The
“en masse” petitioners sought to challenge the
constitutionality of the criminal charging process utilized
against them by the State of Montana. Id. at 18-32.
and the additional petitioners, were notified that the Court
would not allow them to proceed as a group and that separate
cases would be opened for each. (Doc. 1 at 1-5). Petitioners
were then ordered to respond individually to advise the Court
whether or not they wished to proceed and, if so, petitioners
were directed to each complete the Court's standard
habeas form. Id. at 5-6. Stearns did not respond to
this Court's order.
Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
has moved this Court to be granted in forma pauperis status.
(Doc. 3). Because there is no reason to delay this matter
further, Stearns's motion will be GRANTED.
Motion to Dismiss
asks this Court to dismiss Indecent Exposure convictions
handed down in the Twenty-First Judicial District, Ravalli
County, in Cause No. DC-07-48 and Sexual Intercourse without
Consent convictions handed down in the Eighth Judicial
District, Cascade County in Cause No. BDC-97-020. (Docs. 4 at
1; 5 at 1). The argument is premised upon what Stearns
believes to be a faulty and unconstitutional state criminal
charging process. Id. at 1-12.
extent that Stearns seeks to challenge his Ravalli County
convictions, Stearns has already been afforded the
opportunity to do so in this Court. His previous petition was
dismissed with prejudice as procedurally defaulted without
excuse. See Stearns v. Attorney General of the State of
Montana, Cause No. CV 10-44-M-DWM-JCL (D. Mont. judgment
filed Oct. 25, 2010). Until Stearns obtains leave from the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to file a successive habeas
petition challenging the Ravalli County convictions, see 28
U.S.C. § 2244(b), this Court has no jurisdiction to hear
his claims, Burton v. Stewart, 549 U.S. 147, 149
(2007) (per curiam).
to the extent that Stearns seeks dismissal of the Cascade
County convictions, this Court is not able to provide him the
relief sought. Federal district courts, as courts of original
jurisdiction, do not serve as appellate tribunals to review
errors allegedly committed by state courts. MacKay v. Pfeil,
827 F.2d 540, 543 (9th Cir. 1987); see also
Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 296 (1970)(“lower federal
courts possess no power whatever to sit in direct review of
state court decisions”). It would be entirely
inappropriate for this Court to review and dismiss the state
convictions as suggested by Stearns. The Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. 4) is DENIED.
U.S.C. § 2254 Petition
noted, Stearns has not filed an individual petition for
habeas corpus relief as directed. And as stated in this
Court's prior order of February 5, 2018, Stearns is
precluded from filing his request for habeas relief en masse
with other petitioners. (Doc. 1 at 1-5). Dismissal on that
ground is appropriate. See Stewart v.
Martinez-Villareal,523 U.S. 637, 645 (1998)(explaining
that dismissal for technical procedural reasons should not
bar prisoners from ever obtaining federal habeas review)
(citing United States ex rel. Barnes v. Gilmore, 968
F.Supp. 384, 385 ( N.C. Ill. 1997) and Marsh v. U.S.
Dist. Court for Northern Dist. of California, 1995 WL
23942 at *1 (N.D. Ca. 1995)). Recognizing that courts