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Rios v. Wigen

decided: November 29, 1988.

FILIBERTO OJEDA RIOS, PETITIONER,
v.
GEORGE WIGEN, WARDEN, METROPOLITAN CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT



Petition by a defendant in custody within this Circuit for a writ of habeas corpus or mandamus challenging an order of pretrial detention in connection with an indictment pending in the District Court for the District of Puerto Rico; writ of habeas corpus or mandamus sought because of alleged disregard of prior opinion of this Court in United States v. Ojeda Rios, 846 F.2d 167 (2d Cir. 1988). Petition for writ of habeas corpus denied; petition for writ of mandamus referred to three-judge panel, see In re Ojeda Rios, F.2d (2d Cir. 1988).

Newman, Circuit Judge, in Chambers.

Author: Newman

JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge.

Pending before me in my capacity as circuit judge is a petition by Filiberto Ojeda Rios, who is currently confined in the Metropolitan Correctional Center within the Southern District of New York. The petition seeks alternatively a writ of mandamus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651 (1982), or a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (1982). Petitioner has addressed the petition to me by name.

Facts

Petitioner was initially arrested in Puerto Rico on August 30, 1985, after a grand jury in the District of Connecticut indicted him and others for various offenses arising out of the 1983 armed robbery of a Wells Fargo office in West Hartford, Connecticut. The Government sought and obtained his pretrial detention without bail in connection with the robbery charges on grounds of both dangerousness and risk of flight. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e) (Supp. IV 1986). In support of the request for detention on the ground of dangerousness, the Government presented evidence to the United States Magistrate in Connecticut that Ojeda Rios had shot and wounded an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the course of the arrest in Puerto Rico. After several challenges to the lawfulness of the pretrial detention, see United States v. Melendez-Carrion, 790 F.2d 984 (2d Cir. 1986); United States v. Melendez-Carrion, 820 F.2d 56 (2d Cir. 1987), this Court ruled on May 13, 1988, that the continued pretrial detention of Ojeda Rios violated his rights under the Due Process Clause. (Ojeda Rios I) supra. Ojeda Rios had then been in pretrial detention for thirty-two months. On May 20, 1988, Ojeda Rios was released on bail in connection with the Connecticut robbery charges.

On August 14, 1988, a grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico indicted Ojeda Rios on assault and firearms charges arising from the shooting episode that occurred in Puerto Rico on August 30, 1985, when he was arrested for the Connecticut robbery. Two days later he was arrested in Connecticut on a bench warrant issued upon the Puerto Rico indictment. The Government sought pretrial detention without bail in connection with the Puerto Rico assault charges, and such detention was ordered by the United States Magistrate in Puerto Rico. Thereafter, Ojeda Rios successfully sought to have his confinement transferred to the Southern District of New York so that he could consult with counsel in connection with the pending Connecticut indictment. Ojeda Rios has challenged the pretrial detention order issued by the Magistrate in Puerto Rico by appealing to the District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. See 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b) (Supp. IV 1986).

Discussion

Preliminarily, I consider whether petitioner is entitled to select the judge to act on the petition and whether the relief he seeks should be considered by one judge of this Court or by a panel of three judges.

1. Presentation to a Selected Judge. Unlike the Supreme Court, this Court does not by rule provide for identification of the particular judge to whom a one-judge motion should be submitted.*fn1 However, it is the practice of this Court that one-judge motions are submitted for decision by the junior active judge of the panel then sitting.*fn2 Thus, the initial question is whether our usual practice should be altered where a one-judge motion is addressed to a named judge. I believe that under normal circumstances the usual referral procedure should be followed. Forum-shopping is to be discouraged, and litigants generally ought not to have the option of selecting a particular judge to adjudicate one-judge motions. When a panel of the Court is sitting, the Clerk's Office should refer one-judge motions to the junior active judge, regardless of the judge selected by the litigant. When a panel is not sitting, as occurs during some weeks of the summer, a judge is designated by the Court each week to serve as applications judge, and a one-judge motion should be referred to that judge. Upon referral, the junior active judge (or the applications judge) can then determine, ordinarily in consultation with the named judge, whether any special circumstances warrant referral of the motion in accordance with the litigant's preference.

Emergency situations may occasionally arise where circumstances require the immediate presentation of a one-judge motion to a judge at a location distant from the Clerk's Office in New York City, in which event the judge has the discretion either to act upon the motion or to require its submission to the Clerk's Office for normal referral and scheduling.

The pending motion was filed with the Clerk's Office and referred to me because the motion was addressed to me. Ordinarily I would have returned the motion to the Clerk's Office for referral to the junior active judge. However, I was coincidentally the junior active judge of the panel sitting when the motion was referred to me. For that reason alone, I have retained the motion and therefore proceed to consider whether the motion is properly for an individual judge or a panel of three judges.

2. Decision by One Judge or a Three-Judge Panel. The rules of our Court provide that motions for "procedural relief" will "normally" be determined by one judge. 2d Cir. R. 27(f). The pending petition for mandamus or habeas corpus to obtain release from pretrial detention is surely not a motion for procedural relief. Nevertheless, authority to issue an extraordinary writ appears to be conferred upon an individual judge by the "all writs" statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(b), and "any circuit judge" has clear authority to grant a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a). Use of an individual judge's authority to issue an extraordinary writ has normally been confined to situations warranting temporary relief to preserve the court's jurisdiction, see Arrow Transportation Co. v. Southern Ry., 372 U.S. 658, 662, 10 L. Ed. 2d 52, 83 S. Ct. 984 n.4 (1963); Application of President & Directors of Georgetown College, Inc., 118 U.S. App. D.C. 80, 331 F.2d 1000, 1005 (D.C. Cir.) (chambers opinion of Wright, J.), reh'g in banc denied, 118 U.S. App. D.C. 90, 331 F.2d 1010 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 377 U.S. 978 (1964); Woods v. Wright, 8 Race Rel. L. Rep. 445 (5th Cir. 1963) (chambers opinion of Tuttle, J.).

Though I have authority to consider the pending petition as an individual judge, I deem it appropriate to refer the petition to a panel of this Court to the extent that the petition seeks a writ of mandamus. First, though petitioner's liberty is at issue, this is not a situation such as confronted Judge Wright in Application of President & Directors of Georgetown College, Inc., supra, where the delay required for consideration by a panel risked life-threatening consequences. Second, on matters of substance, where recourse is had to a court of appeals, it is normally preferable, absent an emergency, to have decision rendered by more than an individual judge. See Aaron v. Cooper, 261 F.2d 97, 101 n.1 (8th Cir. 1958) (describing practice of Eighth Circuit to have extraordinary motions normally considered by at least two judges "to prevent any attempt at 'shopping' as ...


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