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Haff v. Firman

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 21, 2016

STEPHEN HAFF, Private flesh and blood Sovereign American Citizen, Applicant,
PATRICK FIRMAN, Sheriff of the City and County of Denver, Respondent.



Applicant, Stephen Haff, is a pre-trial detainee at the Denver County Jail in Denver, Colorado. He has filed pro se an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (ECF No. 9) in which he asserts that his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated in an ongoing state criminal proceeding because he is “a Private Sovereign American Citizen.” The Court must construe the Application liberally because Mr. Haff is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not act as an advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, the Application will be denied and the action will be dismissed without prejudice.

In the Application, Mr. Haff alleges that he was arrested on January 12, 2015 and “deposited into the custody of the respondent Sheriff of the City and County of Denver.” (ECF No. 9 at 2). He further alleges that the State of Colorado initiated criminal proceedings against him for “alleged violations of the State’s ‘criminal statutes.’” (Id.). He then asserts the following five claims:

• [i]t is lawfully impossible for the applicant to violate any statute belonging to the state because the applicant is not and has never been a member, subject, and/or affiliated in any way with the state (claim one);
• [t]he applicant is not subject to the Denver County and District Courts (claim two);
• [t]he state lacks legal standing to bring and maintain [his criminal] case because the state has not suffered an (1) injury in fact (2) to a legally protected interest (claim three);
• Article III. Section 2. Clause 2., of the Constitution for the United States of America specifically prohibits any state court from exerting jurisdiction over [his criminal] case (claim four); and
• [a]lthough the underlying matter is called a criminal case. The true nature of the proceeding is of a commercial nature and the state and the state courts exerting jurisdiction over it. Are using a quasi form of admiralty-maritime rules to intentionally deceive the applicant (claim five).

(ECF No. 9 at 2-12).

Mr. Haff seeks an order “directing the respondent to certify the true cause of the applicant’s detention.” (Id. at 13).

Absent extraordinary or special circumstances, federal courts are prohibited from interfering with ongoing state criminal proceedings. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971); Phelps v. Hamilton, 122 F.3d 885, 889 (10th Cir. 1997). Abstention is appropriate under Younger if three conditions are met: “(1) the state proceedings are ongoing; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to present the federal constitutional challenges.” Phelps, 122 F.3d at 889. The abstention principles of Younger are jurisdictional and apply when the petitioner seeks federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding. See Dolack v. Allenbrand, 548 F.3d 891, 893 (10th Cir. 1977).

The first condition for Younger abstention is met because Mr. Haff concedes that the state criminal proceeding is ongoing. The second condition also is satisfied because the Supreme Court “has recognized that the States’ interest in administering their criminal justice systems free from federal interference is one of the most powerful of the considerations that should influence a court considering equitable types of relief.” Kelly v. Robinson, 479 U.S. 36, 49 (1986) (citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 44-45). Under the third condition, Mr. Haff will have an opportunity to raise his constitutional claims during the state criminal proceeding and there is no reason to believe his claims will not be given full and proper consideration by the state courts. See Kugler v. Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 95 S.Ct. 1254 (1975) (noting that “ordinarily a pending state prosecution provides the accused a fair and sufficient opportunity for vindication of federal constitutional rights”). The fact that Mr. Haff’s efforts to prevent the State from prosecuting the criminal case against him so far have been unsuccessful does not mean that he has not had, or does not have, an adequate opportunity to present his federal constitutional issues during the state court proceedings.

Mr. Haff “may overcome the presumption of abstention ‘in cases of proven harassment or prosecutions undertaken by state officials in bad faith without hope of obtaining a valid conviction and perhaps in other extraordinary circumstances where irreparable injury can be ...

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