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Urbina v. Mendham

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 4, 2019




         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a federal detainee under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “the person detained is not entitled [to habeas relief].” 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. 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). After undertaking a preliminary review, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because habeas corpus relief is not available for Petitioner's claims.


         I. Factual allegations

         Petitioner Richardo Leodoro Urbina is presently detained at the Newaygo County Jail in White Cloud, Michigan. He was initially detained pursuant to the March 15, 2018, order of Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody in Petitioner's criminal prosecution in this Court, United States v. Urbina, 1:18-cr-51 (W.D. Mich.). When Petitioner filed his petition on April 29, 2019, he was detained pending trial. Petitioner has since been tried before the Honorable Janet T. Neff and a jury. The jury found Petitioner guilty of nine sex trafficking crimes and two cocaine distribution crimes. Urbina, No. 1:18-cr-51 (W.D. Mich. May 14, 2019). Based upon the jury's verdict, the trial court continued Petitioner's detention pending sentencing, currently scheduled for September 23, 2019.

         On April 29, 2019, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition. The petition is a virtually empty form. The blanks provided to explain the grounds for habeas relief ask the Court to “see attached” with respect to habeas grounds I and IV and indicate “N/A”-presumably not applicable-with respect to habeas grounds II and III. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.6-7.)

         There is nothing attached to the petition. The only hint at the substance of Petitioner's habeas challenge appears in the section titled “Decision or Action You Are Challenging, ” wherein Petitioner indicates: “Lack of Jurisdiction.” (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.1-2.) That hint points toward Petitioner's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, titled “Writ to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, ” filed in the criminal case on the same day Petitioner filed his habeas petition. The trial court immediately denied Petitioner's request for relief without hearing because it had previously considered and rejected jurisdictional challenges at a motion hearing on October 17, 2018, and the final pretrial conference on April 26, 2019. Urbina, No. 1:18-cr-51 (W.D. Mich. May 1, 2019).

         Petitioner's most recent challenges to the trial court's jurisdiction are founded upon his claim that there is no lawful indictment. That claim, in turn, depends on the following contentions: (1) there were flaws in the grand jury proceedings; (2) the government did not own the places where the alleged crimes occurred; and (3) there were flaws in the Congressional proceedings enacting the federal criminal statutes.[1]

         II. § 2241 Claims Challenging Federal Pretrial or Prejudgment Detention

         A habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 requires entry of judgment before relief is available. A motion to vacate sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 similarly requires that a prisoner be “in custody under sentence of a court” before relief is available. Neither of those statutes permits relief to a pretrial detainee or a person detained pending sentence. Where a pretrial detainee challenges the constitutionality of a pretrial-or prejudgment-detention, the detainee must pursue relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Atkins v. Michigan, 644 F.2d 543, 546 n.1 (6th Cir. 1981). Petitioner seeks relief under that section.

         The Supreme Court has cautioned that regular federal criminal proceedings, not habeas corpus proceedings, are the proper venue to resolve the very challenges that Petitioner raises in his petition, i.e., “disputed questions of fact, and . . . disputed matters of law, [that] relate to the sufficiency of the indictment or the validity of the statute on which the charge is based.” Henry v. Henkel, 235 U.S. 219, 229 (1914). Similarly, in Johnson v. Hoy, 227 U.S. 245 (1913), the Supreme Court rejected a habeas petition by a pretrial detainee who objected to excessive bail and claimed that the statute under which he had been indicted was unconstitutional, stating:

The writ of habeas corpus is not intended to serve the office of a writ of error even after verdict; and, for still stronger reasons, it is not available to a defendant before trial, except in rare and exceptional cases . . . . [The petition] is an effort to nullify that rule, and to depart from the regular course of criminal proceedings by securing from this court, in advance, a decision on an issue of law which the defendant can raise in the district court, with the right, if convicted, to a writ of error on any ruling adverse to his contention. That the orderly course of a trial must be pursued and the usual remedies exhausted, even where the petitioner attacks on habeas corpus the constitutionality of the statute under which he was indicted, was decided in Glasgow v. Moyer, 225 U.S. 420 (1912). That and other similar decisions have so definitely established the general principle as to leave no room for further discussion. Riggins v. United States, 199 U.S. 547 (1905).

Johnson, 227 U.S. at 247.

         In Medina v. Choate, 875 F.3d 1025 (10th Cir. 2017), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit collected the “remarkably few” published ...

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