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Arens v. State

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

November 18, 2013

MARC ARENS, Petitioner,


JANIE S. MAYERON, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Petitioner's self-styled application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Docket No. 1.) The case has been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons discussed below, it is recommended that this action be summarily dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of The Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases In The United States District Courts.[1]


Petitioner is an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rush City, Minnesota. His petition indicates that he is incarcerated by reason of his convictions in two Minnesota state court criminal cases, which are identified as (1) a 2011 conviction in Ramsey County for Possession of Shoplifting Gear, resulting in a 30-month sentence, and (2) a 2005 conviction in Ramsey County for "Felony Test Refusal, " resulting in a 75-month sentence. (Petition, p. 1.)

Petitioner apparently believes that his conviction for possession of shoplifting gear is legally invalid, because it was based on evidence that was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. (Id. p. 1, ¶ 1.) However, Petitioner's trial counsel allegedly refused to raise Petitioner's supposed Fourth Amendment defense. ( Id., p. 1, ¶ 2.) When Petitioner later appealed his conviction, his appellate counsel also allegedly refused to raise certain arguments and defenses that Petitioner wanted to present. ( Id., p. 2, ¶s 3-4.) Petitioner attempted to discharge his appellate counsel, and he ultimately filed his own pro se appellate brief, which presumably raised all of the defenses he deemed appropriate. ( Id., p. 2, ¶ 4.)

The Minnesota Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's appeal on July 29, 2013, but Petitioner did not learn of that ruling until August 16, 2013. ( Id., p. 3, ¶ 9.) After Petitioner was informed about the Court of Appeals' ruling, he asked for an extension of the deadline for seeking further review in the Minnesota Supreme Court. ( Id., p. 3, ¶ 10.) That request was granted, and the deadline for seeking further review was extended to September 27, 2013. (Id.) On September 26, 2013, Petitioner requested a second extension of the deadline to seek further review in the Minnesota Supreme Court, but that second request was denied on October 2, 2013. ( Id., p. 3, ¶ 11.)

Petitioner believes that the Minnesota Supreme Court wrongly denied his second request for additional time to file a petition for further review. His current habeas corpus petition indicates that he is trying to "discover a way to have the Supreme Court's October 2, 2013 Order denying his motion for a second extension of time repealed." ( Id., p. 4, ¶ 13.) Petitioner now wants our Court - the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - to enter an order that would "rescind" the Minnesota Supreme Court's order of October 2, 2013. ( Id., p. 4, ¶ 14.) He also wants our Court to "remand" his case to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and order that Court to allow him to file a belated petition for further review of the Minnesota Court of Appeals' decision of July 29, 2013. ( Id., p. 5, ¶ 14.) Petitioner also wants an order directing the clerk of the state appellate courts to "provide the petitioner with a copy of his pro se brief that he filed in the [state] court of appeals." (Id.)


Petitioner's current habeas corpus petition reflects a gross misunderstanding of the relationship between the state and federal court systems in this country. For the most part, those two systems operate independently. Federal district courts have no supervisory authority over state courts, nor do they have any authority to exercise any form of appellate review over state court rulings. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp. , 544 U.S. 280, 285 (2005) ("[a]mong federal courts... Congress... empowered only [the U.S. Supreme] Court to exercise appellate authority to reverse or modify' a state-court judgment") (citation omitted).[2]

The federal habeas corpus statutes provide a unique, and very limited, exception to the general rule that prohibits lower federal courts from reviewing state court rulings. See Edwards v. City of Jonesboro , 645 F.3d 1014, 1017 (8th Cir. 2011) ("with the exception of habeas corpus proceedings, the inferior federal courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over appeals from state-court judgments"). However, the remedy provided by the federal habeas corpus statutes is available only for individuals who claim to be "in custody, " pursuant to a state court judgment, "in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Furthermore, a federal court cannot grant habeas corpus relief to a state detainee based on a de novo review of his or her claims. A writ of habeas corpus can be granted only if a petitioner establishes that his or her detention has been effected by a state court judgment that either (1) "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " or (2) "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

In this case, Petitioner has not presented any cognizable claim for relief under the federal habeas corpus statutes. His current petition includes a passing reference to the Fourth Amendment, but he has made no effort to satisfy the stringent standards described in § 2254(d). Simply put, Petitioner has not described any possible ground for granting him a writ of habeas corpus.[3]

It appears that the relief Petitioner actually is seeking in this case is a writ of mandamus that would compel the Minnesota Supreme Court (and its clerk) to perform certain actions. See 28 U.S.C. § 1361 ("[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff"). Petitioner has plainly stated that he wants our Court to enter an order that would direct the Minnesota Supreme Court to allow him to file a belated application for further review of a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision. However, a federal district court has no legal authority to enter a writ of mandamus directed to a state court. Middlebrooks v. Thirteenth Judicial District Circuit Court, Union County , 323 F.2d 485, 486 (8th Cir. 1963) (per curiam). See also Moye v. Clerk, DeKalb County Superior Court , 474 F.2d 1275, 1276 (5th Cir. 1973) ("a federal court lacks the general power to issue writs of mandamus to direct state courts and their judicial officers in the performance of their duties"). Therefore, Petitioner could not be granted the relief he is seeking by means of mandamus.


For the reasons discussed above, the Court finds that Petitioner has failed to plead an actionable claim for relief under the federal habeas corpus statutes. The relief that Petitioner is seeking in this case cannot be provided by a federal district court by means of a writ of habeas corpus, a writ of mandamus, or by any other means. The Court will therefore recommend that this action be summarily dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of the Governing Rules. (See n. 1, supra.) However, it will be recommended that the case be dismissed without prejudice, so that Petitioner will be able to file a new federal habeas corpus petition, if he is ever able to present a colorable claim for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[4] Having determined that this case must be summarily dismissed, the Court will further recommend that Petitioner's pending application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, (Docket ...

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