United States District Court, C.D. California
February 4, 2015
STEVEN DEON TURNER, Petitioner,
SANDRA ALFARO, Warden, Respondent.
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
JEAN ROSENBLUTH, Magistrate Judge.
On January 27, 2015, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, ostensibly challenging his October 2014 conviction in Los Angeles County Superior Court for shooting at an inhabited dwelling house and other crimes (Pet. at 1-2) but primarily complaining about the state appellate courts' denial of some kind of petition for writ of mandate (see Pet. at Additional Sheet One & Two). He complains that he was denied due process by the prison's mail policy, which caused him to receive a state court order too late to file a reply. (See id.) This Court's review of the California Appellate Courts' Case Information website shows that Petitioner's direct appeal remains pending. See http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/dockets.cfm?dist=2&doc_id=2092167&doc_no=B259916 (last visited Feb. 3, 2015) (showing last entry as record on appeal filed Jan. 16, 2015).
As a general proposition, a federal court will not intervene in a pending state criminal proceeding absent extraordinary circumstances involving great and immediate danger of irreparable harm. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45-46 (1971); see also Fort Belknap Indian Cmty. v. Mazurek, 43 F.3d 428, 431 (9th Cir. 1994) (abstention appropriate if ongoing state judicial proceedings implicate important state interests and offer adequate opportunity to litigate federal constitutional issues). "[O]nly in the most unusual circumstances is a defendant entitled to have federal interposition by way of injunction or habeas corpus until after the jury comes in, judgment has been appealed from and the case concluded in the state courts." Drury v. Cox, 457 F.2d 764, 764-65 (9th Cir. 1972).
Younger abstention is appropriate if three criteria are met: (1) the state proceedings are ongoing; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings provide an adequate opportunity to litigate the federal constitutional claims. See Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). The Ninth Circuit has articulated a fourth criterion: that the federal action would "enjoin" the state proceeding "or have the practical effect of doing so." Potrero Hills Landfill, Inc. v. Cnty. of Solano, 657 F.3d 876, 882 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Here, all criteria for abstention appear to be satisfied. Petitioner's appeal of his convictions remains pending. Criminal proceedings necessarily implicate important state interests. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 43-45. The Court has no basis for believing that the state proceedings will not provide an adequate opportunity for Petitioner to litigate his claims. Petitioner has not explained what his petition for writ of mandate sought or what if anything it has to do with his criminal case. In any event, he has not explained why any error by the state courts could not be corrected on appeal. If Petitioner seeks to challenge on constitutional grounds the mail policy of the prison where he is housed (see Pet. at 4), he should file a civil rights lawsuit, not a habeas petition. See Badea v. Cox, 931 F.2d 573, 574 (9th Cir. 1991) (noting that challenge to conditions of confinement should generally be made in civil rights lawsuit, not habeas petition). Finally, any federal action would certainly have the practical effect of enjoining the state proceedings, in that the appellate process there is apparently ongoing.
A federal court may properly intervene when a petitioner makes a "showing of bad faith, harassment, or some other extraordinary circumstance that would make abstention inappropriate." Middlesex, 457 U.S. at 435. Petitioner has provided no evidence of bad faith or harassment other than his conclusory allegations concerning the prison's mail policy, which are insufficient to warrant the serious step of federal intervention. Though the list of possible extraordinary circumstances justifying intervention has not been fully articulated, see Baffert v. Cal. Horse Racing Bd., 332 F.3d 613, 621 (9th Cir. 2003), they must create a "pressing need for immediate federal equitable relief, not merely in the sense of presenting a highly unusual factual situation, " Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 125 (1975).
Here, Petitioner has not explained why he is in immediate need of federal equitable relief, nor has he pointed to any extraordinary circumstance warranting intervention.
IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED that within 21 days of the date of this Order, Petitioner show cause in writing, if he has any, why the Court should not deny the Petition without prejudice and dismiss this action under Younger. Petitioner is warned that his failure to timely and satisfactorily respond to this Order may result in his Petition being dismissed for the reasons stated above and for failure to prosecute.