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Smith v. Sheldon

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 7, 2019

EDDIE LEE SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
EDWARD SHELDON, WARDEN Mansfield Correctional Institution, Respondent.

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN, JUDGE

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION (DOC. NO. 6)

          JONATHAN D. GREENBERG, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the magistrate judge pursuant to Local Rule 72.2. Before the Court is the petition of Eddie Lee Smith (“Smith” or “Petitioner”) for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Currently pending is Smith's Motion for Stay of State Court Sentence/Proceedings Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2251. (Doc. No. 6.) Respondent Edward Sheldon (“Sheldon” or “Respondent”) opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 7.) Smith filed a Response in support of his Motion on October 28, 2019. (Doc. No. 10.) For the following reasons, it is recommended Smith's Motion to Stay (Doc. No. 6) be DENIED.

         Smith filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court on June 28, 2019, raising three grounds for relief. (Doc. No. 1.) Respondent filed his Answer/Return of Writ on October 29, 2019. Smith's Traverse has not yet been filed.[1] (Doc. No. 11.)

         Smith seeks a stay of his sentence under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2251. This rule read, in pertinent part:

(a) In general.--
(1) Pending matters.--A justice or judge of the United States before whom a habeas corpus proceeding is pending, may, before final judgment or after final judgment of discharge, or pending appeal, stay any proceeding against the person detained in any State court or by or under the authority of any State for any matter involved in the habeas corpus proceeding. . . .
(b) No further proceedings.--After the granting of such a stay, any such proceeding in any State court or by or under the authority of any State shall be void. If no stay is granted, any such proceeding shall be as valid as if no habeas corpus proceedings or appeal were pending.

28 U.S.C.A. § 2251. He argues that his sentence should be stayed pending resolution of his habeas claim because his imprisonment violates his rights under state and federal law. (Doc. No. 6 at 1.) He also argues that his continued imprisonment makes his habeas petition futile, since he is due for release on May 13, 2020, and his underlying habeas petition is unlikely to be finally resolved before that date. (Id.)

         Respondent challenges the whether the Court has the authority to issue a stay under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2251. He cites Kleczka v. Com. of Mass., 259 F.Supp. 462, 465 (D. Mass. 1966), which holds, “[t]he court's power under Title 28 U.S.C. § 2251, refers only to State court proceedings, not to service of sentences imposed by a State court. To grant the petitioner's motion would be equivalent to awarding the writ on the merits.”

         Smith does not cite any authority for the proposition that the stay provision allows federal courts to stay state-court sentences. However, the case cited by the Respondent is a federal district court decision from Massachusetts decided in 1966. Since then, many other district courts have disagreed with the holding in Kleczka, stating “to the extent that Kleczka, supra, says that executions of sentences . . . are not ‘proceedings' within the terms of 28 U.S.C. § 2251, it does not correctly state the law.” Bates v. Estelle, 483 F.Supp. 224 (S.D. Tex. 1980). See also Watson v. Goodwin, No. CV 15-2060, 2017 WL 906967, at *1 (W.D. La. Mar. 7, 2017), aff'd, 709 Fed.Appx. 311 (5th Cir. 2018) (“A federal court has the authority to release a post-conviction habeas corpus petitioner on bail pending a decision on the merits of the habeas corpus petition.”); Stepney v. Lopes, 597 F.Supp. 11, 13 (D. Conn. 1984) (“A stay, as sought by petitioner, is equivalent to the admission to bail and is within the authority of the court.”); Whitecalf v. Young, No. Civ. 14-5072-JLV, 2015 WL 224982, at *1 (D.S.D. Jan. 15, 2015).

         Those decisions are consistent with the Sixth Circuit ruling in Dotson v. Clark, 900 F.2d 77 (6th Cir. 1990). In Dotson, the Court allowed habeas petitioners to receive a stay of sentence pending resolution of their habeas claims, if they satisfied a two-pronged test: “[i]n order to receive bail pending a decision on the merits, prisoners must be able to show not only a substantial claim of law based on the facts surrounding the petition but also the existence of ‘some circumstance making [the motion for bail] exceptional and deserving of special treatment in the interests of justice.'” Dotson v. Clark, 900 F.2d 77, 79 (6th Cir. 1990). This test was based in part on a Supreme Court decision denying bail for a habeas petitioner. Aronson v. May, 85 S.Ct. 3, 13 L.Ed.2d 6 (1964). In Aronson, Justice Douglas wrote:

This applicant is incarcerated because he has been tried, convicted, and sentenced by a court of law. He now attacks his conviction in a collateral proceeding. It is obvious that a greater showing of special reasons for admission to bail pending review should be required in this kind of case than would be required in a case where applicant had sought to attack by writ of habeas corpus an incarceration not resulting from a judicial determination of guilt. Cf. Yanish v. Barber, 73 S.Ct. 1105, 97 L.Ed. 1637 (1953). In this kind of case it is therefore necessary to inquire whether, in addition to there being substantial questions presented by the appeal, there is some circumstance making this application exceptional and deserving of special treatment in the interests of justice. See Benson v. California, 328 F.2d 159 (C.A. 9th Cir. 1964).

Aronson, 85 S.Ct. at 5, 13 L.Ed.2d at 9 (Douglas, J., in chambers). In Dotson, the Sixth Circuit warned that it was setting a high bar, and “[t]here will be few occasions where a prisoner will meet this standard.” Dotson, 900 F.2d at 79. The Court explained that this high bar is appropriate because “[s]ince a habeas petitioner is appealing a presumptively valid state conviction, both principles of comity and common sense dictate that it will indeed be the very unusual case where a habeas petitioner is admitted ...


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