United States District Court, D. Vermont
ANTONIO D. CRAWFORD, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE CENTRAL (PEORIA) DISTRICT, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DISMISSING PETITION
FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS (DOCS. 1, 1-1)
CHRISTINA REISS, DISTRICT JUDGE
16, 2019, petitioner Antonio D. Crawford, an Illinois state
prisoner, representing himself, filed an application to
proceed without prepayment of fees supplement by a financial
affidavit, seeking to file a petition for a writ of mandamus
under 28 U.S.C. § 1361 against the United States
District Court for the Central District of Illinois. Because
his financial affidavit satisfies the requirements of 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a), Petitioner's request to proceed
in forma pauperis (Doc. 1) is GRANTED. However, for
the following reasons, this case is DISMISSED. (Doc. 1-1.)
the in forma pauperis statute, the court conducts an
initial screening of an action. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). Filings by self-represented parties are "to
be liberally construed, and .. . held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]"
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Harris v. Miller, 818 F.3d 49, 56 (2d Cir. 2016)
(per curiam). A district court may, however, dismiss a case
seeking in forma pauperis status if it determines
that the complaint "(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii)
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune
from such relief" 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
2012, the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois sentenced Petitioner to 96 months'
imprisonment for two counts of robbing a bank with force or
violence (the "bank robbery case"). See United
States v. Crawford, No. 11-cr-0500, Judgment (N.D. Ill.
Aug. 1, 2012). In 2014, in the United States District Court
for the Central District of Illinois, Petitioner pled guilty
to a charge of mailing a threatening communication (the
threatening communication case") and, in 2015, that
court sentenced him to 70 months' imprisonment to be
served consecutive to his bank robbery case sentence. See
United States v. Crawford, No. 13-cr-10048, Judgment
(CD. Ill. July 2, 2015). His conviction in the threatening
communication case was affirmed on direct appeal. United
States v. Crawford, 665 Fed.Appx. 539 (7th Cir. 2016).
filed an unsuccessful petition for a writ of habeas corpus in
the Northern District of Illinois in the bank robbery case.
See Crawford v. United States, No. 14-cv-4098, Order
(N.D. Ill. Feb 22, 2017) (dismissing petition). With regard
to the threatening communication case, in January 2019,
Petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition in this court which
determined that it lacked jurisdiction and transferred the
action to the Central District of Illinois. See Crawford
v. United States of America, No. 5:19-cv-1, Order at *4
(D. Vt. Jan. 29, 2019) (noting petitioner has not yet begun
to serve his 70-month sentence in the threatening
communication case). Thereafter, in the Central District of
Illinois, Petitioner moved to dismiss the petition and, in
February, that court granted his motion dismissing the
petition without prejudice. See Crawford v. United
States, No. 1:19-cv-1033, Text Order (CD. Ill. Feb. 20,
March 2019, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in the threatening communication case in the District
of Minnesota. See Crawford v. United
States, 2019 WL 3020816 (D. Minn. June 13, 2019). A
Report and Recommendation construed the petition as one
brought under 28 U.S.C. §2255 because it "plainly
challenge[d] the validity of Crawford's sentence[,
]" id. at *2, and recommended denial of the
petition and dismissal of the action because the petition was
filed in the wrong district. The Report and Recommendation
did not recommend transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1631
because "it is likely Crawford would have been barred
from raising this action in the Central District of Illinois
due to this action's untimeliness." Id.
Earlier this month, based upon the Report and Recommendation
and after an independent review, the Minnesota District Court
denied his § 2255 petition. See Crawford v. United
States, 2019 WL 3017627 (D. Minn. July 10, 2019).
April 2019, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in the Central District of California which determined
that no basis for venue existed in that district and
transferred the action to the Central District of
Illinois. See Crawford v. United States,
No. 19-cv-3545, Order (CD. Cal. May 2, 2019). Following
transfer, Petitioner filed motions to transfer his petition
to the District of Maine and to the Central District of
California. Both motions have been denied and his habeas
action brought under both 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and §
2255 is proceeding in the Central District of Illinois, with
the last filing-Petitioner's "motion to postpone
merit review"-docketed July 16, 2019. See Crawford
v. United States, No. 19-cv-1152 (CD. Ill. July 16,
11, 2019, Petitioner filed by mailing the documents
initiating the instant action in this court. Although
Petitioner is currently confined at the Illinois Department
of Corrections, Pontiac Correctional Center, he states that
he is a citizen of Vermont. He asserts that this court has
authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1361 to compel the District
Court for the Central District of Illinois to "perform
its duty by recusing [itself] from hearing [his] criminal
habeas corpus writ and transfer writ" to this court.
(Doc. 1-1 at 10.) In an affidavit filed in his habeas case in
the Central District of Illinois, he asserted that "it
has been believed that I threatened every U.S. District Judge
... at this U.S. District Court in Central Illinois, I accuse
them all of bias and . . . personal prejudice will
occur[.]" In this case, because of this affidavit, he
argues recusal is required under 28 U.S.C. § 144.
Id. at 8.
is well-settled that the exceptional remedy of mandamus will
only be invoked where the petitioner has demonstrated that
its right to such relief is clear and indisputable."
In re Basciano, 542 F.3d 950, 955-56 (2d Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). Section 1361
provides: "The district court 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 therefore to perform a duty owed to the
plaintiff." 28 U.S.C. § 1361. Section 144 provides:
Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes
and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that the judge
before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or
prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse
party, such judge shall proceed no further therein, but
another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.
The affidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for the
belief that bias or prejudice exists .... It shall be
accompanied by a certificate of counsel of record stating
that it is made in good faith.
28 U.S.C. § 144.
assuming this court had the power to compel another federal
district court to transfer a case, it would not do so here as
Petitioner has no right to have his petition heard in this
court. As this court, the District of Minnesota, the Central
District of California, and the Central District of Illinois
have explained, Petitioner's claims under § 2255 may
be addressed only by the sentencing court,  i.e. the Central
District of Illinois, and his claims under § 2241, if
any, may be addressed only by a court with jurisdiction over
his present or future custodian. Because he is currently
incarcerated in Pontiac, Illinois, and the jurisdiction of
his future custody is the district that entered judgment on
the threatening communication conviction, the Central
District of Illinois is the proper court to entertain his
§ 2241 claims.
attempt to force recusal through § 144 is similarly
unavailing. Plaintiff failed to submit the required
certificate stating that his affidavit is made in good faith.
See Lamborn v. Dittmer,726 F.Supp. 510, 515
(S.D.N.Y. 1989) (noting "§ 144 clearly requires a
certificate of good faith"). Moreover, the Central
District of Illinois court considered and rejected
Petitioner's argument for recusal and did not, as
Petitioner alleges, "ignore" his affidavit.
Compare Doc. 1-1 at 3 with Crawford v. United
States, No. 19-cv-1152, Order (CD. Ill. June 18, 2019)
(concluding "recusal is not required, and the Court
denies Crawford's request"). Recusal was not
mandatory. See In re Basciano, 542 F.3d at 956
("The district judge has discretion in the first
instance to determine whether to disqualify himself")
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also Nat'l
Auto Brokers Corp. v. Gen. Motors Corp.,572 F.2d 953,
958 (2d Cir. 1978) ("The mere filing of an affidavit of
prejudice does not require a judge to recuse himself. On the
contrary, we have held that a judge has an affirmative duty .
.. not to disqualify himself unnecessarily[.]"). In any
event, the Seventh Circuit has noted Petitioner's
"obvious effort to manipulate a recusal,"
Crawford, 665 Fed.Appx. at 543,  a finding this
court has ...