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Griffin v. Shafer

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

December 31, 2019

KIM SHAFER, Respondent.



         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a person on bond awaiting trial 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 “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 Rule 1(b), Rules Governing § 2254 cases (permitting application of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases to § 2241 petitions). If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see 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 which raise 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). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed without prejudice on grounds of abstention.


         I. Factual allegations

         Petitioner Earnest Griffin presently is on bond issued by the 61st and 63rd District Courts of Michigan, [1] pending disposition of a number of driving offenses: operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and four incidents of driving a motor vehicle with a revoked or suspended license.[2]

         Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition on or about October 28, 2019. The petition raises 2 grounds for relief, as follows:

I. Article 3 of the Constitution, Peace and Friendship treaty 1787, rights of indigenous people, the right of soil[.] Lower Court has no Jurisdiction or Authority to compel.
II. [H]aven't had a[n] appeal. [S]tated facts to lower court[.]

         (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.6-7.)

         II. Abstention

         Petitioner, who claims to be an “Indigenous Moorish American National of the Continental unite[d] states of America” (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.7), challenges his continued prosecution in the Michigan district courts, contending that the state courts lack jurisdiction over him for a variety of reasons. This Court will abstain from addressing Plaintiff's claims under the principles enunciated in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). In Younger, the Supreme Court has held that absent extraordinary circumstances, federal equity jurisdiction may not be used to enjoin pending state prosecutions. The Younger abstention doctrine is based on the principle that the states have a special interest in enforcing their own laws in their own courts. Id. at 44; see also Parker v. Turner, 626 F.2d 1, 8 (6th Cir. 1980) (“Younger established a near-absolute restraint rule when there are pending state criminal proceedings.”). The rule is “designed to permit state courts to try state cases free from interference by federal courts, particularly where the party to the federal case may fully litigate his claim before the state court.” Zalman v. Armstrong, 802 F.2d 199, 205 (6th Cir. 1986) (internal quotations omitted). Abstention in favor of state court proceedings is proper where there exists: (1) an ongoing state proceeding; (2) an important state interest; and (3) an adequate opportunity in the state judicial proceedings to raise constitutional challenges. Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432, (1982); Fieger v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 740, 744 (6th Cir. 1996).

         The three factors that support Younger abstention are present in this case. First, there is no dispute that there was an ongoing state judicial proceeding when Plaintiff filed his complaint. Second, state criminal proceedings involve important state interests. See, e.g., Cooper v. Parrish, 203 F.3d 937, 954 (6th Cir. 2000). Third, the state court proceedings provide an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges. Nothing prevents Plaintiff from presenting legitimate federal constitutional claims in the pending state court proceedings. “‘Abstention is appropriate unless state law clearly bars the interposition of the constitutional claims.'” Am. Family Prepaid Legal Corp. v. Columbus Bar Ass'n, 498 F.3d 328, 332 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Squire v. Coughlan, 469 F.3d 551, 556 (6th Cir. 2006)). If Petitioner raises federal constitutional claims in the trial court, and that court denies or otherwise fails to consider his constitutional claims, he may exercise his right to an appeal under Michigan law.

         Abstention is therefore appropriate in the absence of one of three exceptions to the Younger abstention doctrine in which: (1) “the state proceeding is motivated by a desire to harass or is conducted in bad faith, ” Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 611 (1975); (2) “the challenged statute is flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions, ” Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 424 (1979) (quoting Huffman, 420 U.S. at 611); or, (3) there is “an extraordinarily pressing need for immediate federal equitable relief.” Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 125 (1975). These exceptions have been interpreted narrowly. Zalman v. Armstrong, 802 F.2d 199, 205 (6th Cir. 1986).

         Here, while Petitioner arguably suggests that he is being prosecuted in bad faith due to the courts' lack of jurisdiction over his conduct, his allegations fail to meet the narrow exception identified in Huffman, 420 U.S. at 611. In addition, the statutes under which Petitioner is being prosecuted are not violative of any constitutional provision, much less flagrantly and patently so. Indeed, Moorish-American-sovereign-citizen claims such as those presented by Petitioner repeatedly have been found to be frivolous. See, e.g., Jackson-El v. State & Fed. Plaintiffs in Gen., No. 1:11-cv-278, 2011 WL 1584606, at *1-2 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 26, 2011) (citing United States v. Burris,231 Fed.Appx. 281, 281 (4th Cir. 2007) (rejecting as frivolous defendant's notion that courts lack jurisdiction to prosecute him because of his status as a Moorish American national); United States v. Toader, Nos. 09-3787 & 09-4100, 2010 WL 4780362, at *3 (7th Cir. Nov. 24, 2010) (per curiam) (“Borlea argues that the federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over him because he is a Native Asiatic Moorish National Citizen. This argument is frivolous.”)); see also Bey v. City of Delaware, No. 2:19-cv-3582, 2019 WL 3936711, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 20, 2019) (holding that claims that Moorish Americans are immune from prosecution are irrational and frivolous) (citing cases); Ward-El v. Barrett, No. ...

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