United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ROBERT L. HARRINGTON, Petitioner,
BONITA HOFFNER, Respondent.
OPINION & ORDER DISMISSING THE PETITION FOR A
WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, & DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA
PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
prisoner Robert L. Harrington (“Petitioner”) has
filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting that he is being held in
violation of his constitutional rights. Petitioner is
challenging his conviction, following a jury trial in the
Circuit Court for Jackson County, Michigan, of assault with
intent to murder in violation of Michigan Compiled Laws
§ 750.83. In 1986, the trial court sentenced Petitioner
as a second habitual offender under Michigan Compiled Laws
§ 769.10 to 20 to 40 years imprisonment. In support of his
request for habeas relief, Petitioner challenges the state
court's jurisdiction and asserts that the authorities
lacked probable cause to arrest him in violation of the
Fourth Amendment, that the criminal complaint lacked
specificity in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and that
such deficiencies also denied him due process and equal
protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
after the filing of a habeas petition, the Court must
undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine
whether “it plainly appears from the face of the
petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner
is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule
4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also 28
U.S.C. § 2243. If, after preliminary consideration, the
Court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief, the Court must summarily dismiss the petition.
Id.; Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir.
1970) (district court has the duty to “screen
out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A
dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions raising
legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual
allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson
v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999).
initial matter, Petitioner seems to assert generally that he
is entitled to habeas relief due to state court
jurisdictional defects. Petitioner challenged the state trial
court's jurisdiction on post-conviction review in the
state courts. The state trial court rejected the claim,
concluding that Petitioner failed to support it with any
relevant evidence. Order, Harrington v. Klee, No.
16-5554 (Mich. Cir. Ct. April 19, 2016) (unpublished); (ECF
No. 1 at Pg Id. 19-20).
is not entitled to federal habeas relief on any such claim.
The determination of whether a particular state court is
vested with jurisdiction under state law and is the proper
venue to hear a criminal case is a “function of the
state courts, not the federal judiciary.” Wills v.
Egeler, 532 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1976); see
also Hamby-Bey v. Bergh, No. 08-cv-13284, 2008 WL
3286227, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 7, 2008) (Battani, J.);
Chandler v. Curtis, No. 05-cv-72608, 2005 WL
1640083, at *2 (E.D. Mich. July 13, 2005) (Cohn, J.);
Groke v. Trombley, No. 01-cv-10045, 2003 WL 1798109,
*5 (E.D. Mich. April 1, 2003) (Lawson, J.); accord Wright
v. Angelone, 151 F.3d 151, 157-58 (4th Cir. 1998);
Rhode v. Olk-Long, 84 F.3d 284, 287 (8th Cir. 1996).
A perceived violation of state law does not provide a basis
for federal habeas relief. Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 67- 68 (1991). A state court's interpretation of
state jurisdictional issues conclusively establishes
jurisdiction for purposes of federal habeas review.
Strunk v. Martin, 27 F.App'x 473, 475 (6th Cir.
thus fails to state a claim upon which habeas relief may be
granted as to this issue.
also asserts that he is entitled to habeas relief because the
authorities arrested him without probable cause in violation
of the Fourth Amendment. Federal courts will not address a
Fourth Amendment claim on habeas review, however, if the
petitioner had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the
claim in state court and the presentation of the claim was
not thwarted by any failure of the state's corrective
processes. See Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494-95
(1976). “All that Stone v. Powell requires is
an ‘opportunity' for full and fair consideration of
the claim for suppression; it is up to the claimant and his
counsel to decide what use, if any, is to be made of the
opportunity.” Jennings v. Rees, 800 F.2d 72,
77 (6th Cir. 1986). A court must perform two distinct
inquiries when determining whether a petitioner may raise an
illegal arrest claim in a habeas action. First, the
“court must determine whether the state procedural
mechanism, in the abstract, presents the opportunity to raise
a Fourth Amendment claim. Second, the court must determine
whether presentation of the claim was in fact frustrated
because of a failure of that mechanism.” Machacek
v. Hofbauer, 213 F.3d 947, 952 (6th Cir. 2000) (quoting
Riley v. Gray, 674 F.2d 522 (6th Cir. 1982)).
has a procedural mechanism presenting “an adequate
opportunity for a criminal defendant to raise a Fourth
Amendment claim.” Robinson v. Jackson, 366
F.Supp.2d 524, 527 (E.D. Mich. 2005). This procedural
mechanism is a motion to suppress, ordinarily filed before
trial. See People v. Ferguson, 135 N.W.2d 357,
358-59 (Mich. 1965) (describing the availability of a
pre-trial motion to suppress); see also People v.
Harris, 291 N.W.2d 97, 99 (Mich. Ct. App. 1980)
(analyzing the legality of a warrantless search, seizure, and
arrest even though raised for the first time on appeal).
Consequently, Petitioner is entitled to relief on this claim
only if he shows that he was prevented from litigating the
Fourth Amendment issue by a failure of Michigan's
makes no such showing. He neither alleges nor establishes
that he was precluded from challenging his arrest at the time
of trial, on appeal, or on collateral review. In fact,
Petitioner states that he raised this issue in a state court
motion for relief from judgment and in a state habeas action,
but was denied relief. The Michigan courts thus were aware of
Petitioner's Fourth Amendment claim and he received all
the process he was due. His Fourth Amendment claim is not
cognizable on federal habeas review pursuant to Stone v.
Powell and must be dismissed.
next asserts that he is entitled to habeas relief because the
criminal complaint against him lacked specificity in
violation of the Fifth Amendment. A criminal defendant has a
due process right to be informed of the nature of the
accusations against him. Lucas v. O'Dea, 179
F.3d 412, 417 (6th Cir. 1999). Notice and opportunity to
defend against criminal charges as guaranteed by the Sixth
Amendment are an integral part of the due process protected
by the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore apply to state
prosecutions. Cole v. Arkansas, 333 U.S. 196, 201
(1948); In Re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 273 (1948).
“The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
mandates that whatever charging method the state employs must
give the criminal defendant fair notice of the charges
against him to permit adequate preparation of his
defense.” Olsen v. McFaul, 843 F.2d 918, 930
(6th Cir. 1988). A complaint or indictment need not be
perfect under state law provided it informs the defendant of
the crime in sufficient detail to enable him to prepare a
defense. A complaint “which fairly but imperfectly
informs the accused of the offense for which he is to be
tried does not give rise to a constitutional issue cognizable
in habeas proceedings.” Mira v. Marshall, 806
F.2d 636, 639 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Dell v.
Straub, 194 F.Supp.2d 629, 653-54 (E.D. Mich. 2002).
assertion that he was not sufficiently notified of the charge
against him is belied by his own pleadings. Petitioner's
criminal complaint, submitted with his petition, provides the
name of the complainant (David Huggett, a Sergeant at the
State Prison of Southern Michigan), the date and location of
the alleged offense (May 12, 1985 in Blackman Township), the
nature of the charge (assault with intent to murder), and the
alleged victim (David Huggett). Such information was
sufficient to notify Petitioner of the charge against him and
to allow him to defend against that charge. Petitioner fails
to demonstrate a due process violation.
Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to habeas relief
because the alleged deficiencies in the arrest warrant and
criminal complaint also deprived him of due process and equal
protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. As an
initial matter, when a specific constitutional provision
covers a claim, such as the Fourth or Sixth Amendment, the
claim must be analyzed under the standard appropriate to that
specific provision, not under the rubric of substantive due
process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989); United States v.
Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 272 n. 7 (1997) (citing
Graham). Thus, the Court's prior ...