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Lingle v. Ashby

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

May 19, 2014

FOREST ASHBY, Director, Rushville Treatment and Detention Facility, Respondent.


COLIN S. BRUCE, District Judge.

This case was transferred to this court by Chief Judge James E. Shadid on December 18, 2013. After careful and thorough consideration, this court concludes that it has no jurisdiction over this case and it must be dismissed without prejudice.


On January 29, 2013, Petitioner, Lawrence Lingle, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (#1), with attached exhibits. The case was assigned to United States District Judge Sue E. Myerscough. Petitioner stated that, on February 13, 2004, the Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, filed a petition pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons (SVP) Act, 725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. Petitioner stated that the petition was filed in the circuit court of Macoupin County. Petitioner further stated that, on February 19, 2004, he was released after completing a sentence of 40 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections but was detained in the Illinois Department of Human Services Treatment and Detention Facility. Petitioner stated that, on February 25, 2004, the circuit court found probable cause in the SVP case and ordered his continued detention.

Petitioner stated that he cooperated with two interviews and evaluations by state chosen evaluators. Petitioner stated that he was entitled by statute to an evaluator chosen by the defense. Petitioner chose Dr. L. Davis to conduct the evaluation but Dr. Davis was tragically killed in a plane crash before any testimony was given in the SVP case. Petitioner requested a new evaluator, Dr. F.S. Berlin of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The circuit court denied this request on September 11, 2007, because of lack of funds. Petitioner stated that he was subsequently ignored by the state circuit court and abandoned by his appointed counsel until he received a letter dated January 14, 2013. In his Petition (#1), Petitioner asked the court to order his immediate and final release from custody.

Petitioner's exhibits included a copy of Petitioner's Motion for Appointment of Evaluator which stated that Dr. Berlin's regular fees to provide an evaluation when he is required to travel to the client's place of incarceration is $6, 000 plus travel expenses, but that he had agreed to discount the rate to $4, 000 plus travel expenses. Petitioner's exhibits also included documentation that Petitioner's attorney sought reconsideration of the circuit court's order denying the request to have Dr. Berlin act as an evaluator, which was denied. Petitioner also filed a copy of a letter dated January 14, 2013 from his attorney. The letter stated that "no action has taken place for a period of approximately 2 years because of your refusal to accept the expert appointed by Judge Londrigan on your behalf." The letter further stated, "[p]lease let me know in writing if you wish to pursue the previously pending matters, and if so, we will need to meet with you to get an update as to your status at the correctional facility and determine what action is to be taken at this time."

On February 4, 2013, Petitioner filed a Supplemental Petition (#5), with attached exhibits. Petitioner stated that his grounds for relief was that he was abandoned by the court and appointed counsel for an extended period of time so that it was no longer possible to get a fair and impartial trial. Petitioner asked for complete, final and immediate release from custody. One of the exhibits attached to the Supplemental Petition was a letter from Petitioner's attorney, dated November 18, 2008, which stated:

Larry, we are at a point where we need to make a decision whether we intend to seek appointment of an alternate evaluator to be appointed by the court on your behalf to testify in response to the testimony intended to be given by the state's witnesses. This matter is just continued generally until we advise the court that you either wish to stand on your previous request for the appointment of Dr. Berlin and will proceed to trial without the benefit of a court-appointed evaluator or whether we would now seek the appointment of a court-appointed evaluator on your behalf.

On February 11, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion for Order to Stay Proceedings (#9). Petitioner asked the court to stay the proceedings in the SVP case pending in Macoupin County. Petitioner stated that he was being forced to proceed in the SVP case. He stated that the court and his appointed attorney had abandoned him for over four years and "made it impossible to have a defense."

On February 14, 2013, Judge Myerscough entered an Order (#11). Judge Myerscough stated that, after performing a preliminary review, there may be some merit to the grounds set forth in Petitioner's Petition. She therefore ordered Respondent to file an answer or responsive pleading by April 15, 2013. Judge Myerscough also stated that she deferred ruling on Petitioner's Motion to Stay until Respondent filed an answer.

On April 15, 2013, Respondent filed his Answer (#30). Respondent first pointed out that, because Petitioner is a pre-trial detainee, his petition must be considered filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, rather than § 2254. See Braden v. 30 th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484, 488-89 (1973). Respondent then argued that Petitioner's habeas petition should be dismissed under the abstention doctrine based upon Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971). Respondent argued that, under Younger, federal courts are barred from interfering with ongoing state "judicial" proceedings. Respondent stated that federal courts will invoke Younger 's abstention doctrine as long as the state proceedings in question are judicial in nature, implicate an important state interest, and afford the defendant an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional issues. See Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431-32 (1982). Respondent argued that "[a]ny challenge to petitioner's ongoing commitment proceedings falls squarely under the Younger doctrine."

On April 25, 2013, Petitioner filed his Reply and Rebuttal (#31) and a Memorandum in Support (#32), with almost 600 pages of attachments. Petitioner argued that he is entitled to an evaluator of his choice under Illinois's SVP Act and the denial of his requested evaluator was error and an abuse of discretion by the circuit court of Macoupin County. Petitioner argued that the subsequent delay in the SVP proceedings violated his constitutional rights. Petitioner also again argued that he was abandoned during that time by his appointed counsel. Petitioner contended that the bar to federal habeas corpus review should be lifted because it is overcome by the stated circumstances and conditions. Petitioner stated that he was now being forced to proceed in the SVP case, in violation of his constitutional rights. In his Memorandum (#32), which he titled "Supplemental Reply and Rebuttal, " Petitioner detailed more complaints regarding the SVP proceedings in his case and SVP proceedings in general.

On September 26, 2013, Judge Myerscough entered a text order and directed Respondent to file a status report regarding Petitioner's state court proceedings. On November 4, 2013, Respondent filed a Status Report (#34). Respondent stated that Petitioner's case has been "on a stand still" since 2008, when the state trial court denied his request to appoint a specific evaluator. Respondent stated that the court indicated that it would appoint a less expensive, local, evaluator instead of Dr. Fred Berlin of Baltimore, Maryland. Proceedings on the SVP petition were removed from the court's call while Petitioner considered whether to proceed without an evaluator, or to accept an evaluator appointed by the court. Respondent stated that, despite repeated inquiries from his attorneys, Petitioner did not respond. Respondent stated that, at the state's request, Petitioner's case has now been set for a status on December 5, 2013. Respondent also stated:

Although the state trial court has declined to consider petitioner's pro se pleadings while he remains represented by counsel, if petitioner elects to dismiss counsel, he could file any motions he wished, including a motion to dismiss the ...

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