United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
JOSEPH E. LAWRENCE, Petitioner,
JIM SALMONSEN, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MONTANA, Respondents.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES
JEREMIAH C. LYNCH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
23, 2018,  Petitioner Joseph E. Lawrence filed this
action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1.) Lawrence is a
state prisoner proceeding pro se. For the reasons set forth
below, Lawrence's petition should be dismissed.
28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition
Court is required to screen all actions brought by prisoners
who seek relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Court must
dismiss a habeas petition or portion thereof if the prisoner
raises claims that are legally frivolous or fails to state a
basis upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b)(1), (2). The Court must dismiss a habeas petition
“[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any
attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief.” Rule 4 Governing Section 2254 Cases. Because
Lawrence's claims are unexhausted, his petition should be
dismissed without prejudice.
was convicted of sexual assault and solicitation in
Montana's Twenty-First Judicial District, Ravalli County.
Lawrence appealed his convictions and argued that his
conditional guilty plea, which reserved his right to appeal
the district court's ruling on his motion to sever, was
invalid because the district court did not rule on the
pending motion before accepting Lawrence's plea. On
appeal, the State conceded the argument and agreed the
underlying plea and sentence should be vacated due to the
invalid plea. The Montana Supreme Court reversed and remanded
the matter and instructed the district court to vacate the
entry of Lawrence's guilty plea and sentence. See,
State v. Lawrence, 2016 MT 209N, Or. (Mont. Aug. 23,
to Lawrence, he was resentenced on June 28, 2017, and an
Amended Judgment was entered on August 9, 2017. (Doc. 1 at 2,
¶. 2.) Lawrence entered Alfordpleas to both
Sexual Assault and Solicitation of Sexual Assault.
Id. at 3, ¶.¶. 3-5. Lawrence contends that
it was unlawful for the district court to accept
Alford pleas upon remand/resentence, based upon a
recent Montana state case, State v. Hansen, 2017 MT
280. Id. at 4, ⁋ 13 (A)(i). Lawrence also
alleges judicial bias, prejudice, and corruption have
permeated his underlying criminal case and the subsequent
remand proceedings. Id. at 5, ¶. 13
same day that Lawrence filed his petition in this Court, he
also filed a petition for state habeas relief. Id.
at 4, ¶. 12. Lawrence asserts the only issue raised in
his state habeas petition is the illegal/unlawful nature of
the plea agreement. Id. at 6, ¶. 14. But, a
review of Lawrence's initial filing in the Montana
Supreme Court indicates that Lawrence references due process
and constitutional violations during his remand proceedings,
as well as judicial bias and malice on the part of the
district court. See, Lawrence v. Salmonsen, OP
18-0440, Pet. at 3 (filed July 30, 2018). There, Lawrence
also advances Brady violations, civil and
constitutional rights violations, and commission of unlawful
acts by the Ravalli County judiciary, prosecution, and law
enforcement officers. Id. at 3-4.
asks this Court to order his immediate release from prison,
remand the matter to the state district court for further
proceedings, and dismiss all charges based upon judicial
bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and malice. Id. at
prisoner must exhaust his state court remedies before
petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court.
Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004). Federal
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-of-state-remedies
doctrine, now codified at 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(b) and
(c), reflects a policy of federal-state comity, an
accommodation of our federal system designed to give the
State an initial opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged
violations of its prisoners' federal rights.”
Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
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.
Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-63 (1996). A petitioner
must meet all three prongs of the test in one proceeding.
“Mere ‘general appeals to broad constitutional
principles, such as due process, equal protection, and the
right to a fair trial,' do not establish
exhaustion.” Castillo v. McFadden, 399 F.3d
993, 999, cert. denied, 546 U.S. 818 (2005).
present case, the Montana Supreme Court has not yet
considered or ruled upon the claims that Lawrence seeks to
advance in this Court. Before Lawrence can file a federal
habeas petition he must give the state courts one full
opportunity to review his constitutional claims.
O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845. Because Lawrence
has not yet exhausted his available state court remedies, as
evidenced by his pending state habeas petition, this Court
cannot review the claims. See Rose v. Lundy, 455
U.S. 509 (1982). Dismissal should be without
prejudice, allowing Lawrence to return to this Court
if and when he fully exhausts the claims relative to his