United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division
January 21, 1988
JOHN R. BRINK, PETITIONER,
JUDGE LUCY D. ROUCH, JUDGE HUGO C. SONGER, JUDGE GORY AUGUSTINE, RESPONDENTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:
Petitioner John Brink's pro se complaints purport to state a
cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for his deprivation of a
But, in fact, his allegations sound in habeas corpus.
Apparently, on April 19, 1987, Petitioner was arrested in
Adams County, Illinois, on the basis of a warrant charging him
with numerous criminal acts in St. Charles County, Missouri,
Callaway County, Missouri, and Dubois County, Indiana. On
October 15, 1987, while incarcerated in the Adams County Jail
and presumably awaiting extradition, he filed the present
lawsuits against three state trial judges — one from each
county named in the warrant.
The pleadings assert that Petitioner is entitled to
immediate release from custody because the periods set forth
in the speedy trial acts of the respective states have run;
yet, he has not been tried for his alleged criminality. This,
Brink concludes, violates the Sixth Amendment. U.S. Const.
amend. VI (in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall
enjoy the right to a speedy trial).
These cases, consolidated for purpose of ruling, are before
the Court upon Brink's motion to proceed in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Such a request rests with the
sound discretion of the district court and may properly be
denied where the underlying claim has no chance of success on
the merits. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d); Tyler v. City of Milwaukee,
740 F.2d 580, 582 (7th Cir. 1984); Dillard v. Liberty Loan
Corp., 626 F.2d 363, 364 (4th Cir. 1980).
The Court recognizes that a party appearing pro se is held to
less stringent pleading standards than those represented by
counsel and that it must construe the allegations presented by
such litigants liberally. Jones v. Morris, 777 F.2d 1277, 1279
(7th Cir. 1985), citing, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92
S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). In spite of this rule of
construction, however, Congress has given the Court power under
§ 1915(d) to deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis
and dismiss a complaint if it is satisfied that the "petitioner
can make no rational argument in law or fact to support his
claim for relief." Jones, 777 F.2d at 1279-80, quoting, Corgain
v. Miller, 708 F.2d 1241, 1247 (7th Cir. 1983).
Applying this standard, the Court finds that leave to
proceed should be denied and the cases dismissed.
In order to state a claim under § 1983, a prisoner must make
a constitutional challenge to the conditions of prison life
rather than the fact or length of his
custody. Prieser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499, 93 S.Ct.
1827, 1841, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). When a prisoner brings a
civil rights action raising issues relating to the latter, the
claim is cognizable only in habeas corpus. Id. at 499 n. 14, 93
S.Ct. at 1841 n. 14. See also Crump v. Lane, 807 F.2d 1394,
1399-401 (7th Cir. 1986); Hanson v. Heckel, 791 F.2d 93, 95-97
(7th Cir. 1986).
In this case, the gravamen of the complaints are that
Petitioner's confinement is unlawful because he has not
received a speedy trial in the state courts as guaranteed by
state statutes. Petitioner's lawsuits, therefore, do not arise
under § 1983. A request for release from custody must be
treated as arising in habeas corpus. See United States ex rel.
Barber v. Pennsylvania, 429 F.2d 518, 519 (3d Cir. 1970).
Construing the complaints liberally, the Court will now
consider the propriety of such relief.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, a district court has the power to
entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf
of a pre-trial detainee where the petitioner is purportedly "in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of
the United States." Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of
Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484, 488-93, 93 S.Ct. 1123, 1126-29, 35
L.Ed.2d 443 (1973); United States ex rel. Hoover v. Franzen,
669 F.2d 433, 442 n. 19 (7th Cir. 1982). Notions of comity and
federalism, however, dictate that unless the applicant has
exhausted remedies available in the state courts, federal
courts should not consider granting the writ. Neville v.
Cavanagh, 611 F.2d 673, 675 (7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied,
446 U.S. 908, 100 S.Ct. 1834, 64 L.Ed.2d 260 (1980); United States
ex rel. Parish v. Elrod, 589 F.2d 327, 328-29 (7th Cir. 1979).
Yet a failure to exhaust state remedies does not deprive a
federal court of jurisdiction to consider the merits of a
habeas corpus petition where to do so appears proper. Granberry
v. Greer, ___ U.S. ___, 107 S.Ct. 1671, 1673, 95 L.Ed.2d 119
(1987); Elrod, 589 F.2d at 328-29; Echevarria v. Bell,
579 F.2d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 1978); United States ex rel. Holleman v.
Duckworth, 652 F. Supp. 82, 91 (N.D.Ill. 1986). As the Supreme
Court indicated in Granberry, 107 S.Ct. at 1674, if the Court
is convinced that the petition is meritless, utilization of the
exhaustion rule would simply require needless litigation in the
Here, nothing in the record indicates that Brink has filed
any claim for relief with the Missouri or Indiana courts.
Thus, this Court would be justified in dismissing the cases
with leave to reinstate if necessary once Brink had exhausted
available state remedies — namely, raising the speedy trial
argument in his criminal prosecution and, if necessary, on
appeal therefrom in the state courts. See Benn v. Montgomery
County, No. 86-1500, Slip op. (E.D.Pa. 1986) [Available on
WESTLAW, 1986 WL 7223] (available on Lexis). Cf. Braden, 410
U.S. at 489, 93 S.Ct. at 1126 (federal habeas corpus does not
lie to adjudicate the merits of an affirmative defense to a
state criminal charge prior to a judgment of conviction by a
state court). But since the complaints do not raise a claim of
constitutional proportions — a prerequisite for § 2241 relief —
the Court believes the more appropriate path is to dismiss the
lawsuits on their merits with prejudice.
Petitioner seems to assume that a violation of a speedy
trial act is synonymous with a violation of the Sixth
Amendment. His assumption is incorrect. The rights of criminal
defendants under each are distinct. United States v. Thirion,
813 F.2d 146, 154 (8th Cir. 1987); United States v. Gonzalez,
671 F.2d 441, 442 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 994, 102
S.Ct. 2279, 73 L.Ed.2d 1291 (1982). Cf. United States v. Scott,
784 F.2d 787, 789-90 (7th Cir.). cert. denied,
476 U.S. 1145, 106 S.Ct. 2257, 90 L.Ed.2d 702 (1986); United States ex
rel. Mitchell v. Fairman, 750 F.2d 806, 807-10 (7th Cir. 1984).
In determining whether a defendant's statutory right to a
speedy trial has been violated, a court more or less makes a
mathematical calculation. On the other hand, whether the Sixth
Amendment has been violated depends at least upon four factors:
"Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's
assertion of his right, and prejudice to the
defendant." Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530, 92 S.Ct. 2182,
2192, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972).
The theory of Petitioner's cases seems to be that because
state statutes have purportedly been violated, the
constitution necessarily has been violated and consequently,
he is entitled to dismissal of the charges and prompt release.
The analysis has shown, however, that this is not the law.
Brink simply has not alleged any factors which might establish
a federal speedy trial claim. No rational argument can be made
in these cases upon the facts set down that Brink is entitled
to a federal court order directing his release. His
allegations that the Missouri and Indiana speedy trial laws
have been violated are insufficient to implicate the United
Moreover, even assuming arguendo that a claim cognizable
under § 2241 was presented, Brink has sued the wrong
Defendants. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is properly
presented against a prisoner's custodian, not a trial court
judge. 28 U.S.C. § 2242 (application for writ shall allege name
of person who has custody over prisoner); Reimnitz v. State's
Attorney of Cook County, 761 F.2d 405, 408 (7th Cir. 1985).
In this day and age of expanding caseloads, the Court must
attempt to strike a balance between open access to the Court
and prudent management of its own docket. In this instance,
the Court would have to manufacture facts on its own
initiative to conclude that a constitutional claim has been
stated. This would stretch the liberal construction rule of
Haines beyond its intended scope. While it is hesitant to deny
access to indigent litigants, the Court believes these cases
have no chance of succeeding on the merits and thus meet the
requirements of § 1915(d).
Ergo, the complaints failing to state a cause of action under
either 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or 28 U.S.C. § 2241, Petitioner's
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is DENIED and the
Judgment for Defendants.
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