on the briefs:[*]
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Oklahoma (D.C. No. 4:18-CV-00382-JED-JFJ)
D. Gifford, II, Gifford Law, P.L.L.C., Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma for Petitioner-Appellant.
HARTZ, PHILLIPS, and EID, Circuit Judges.
Douglas Ray Winn seeks a certificate of appealability (COA)
to appeal the denial by the United States District Court for
the Northern District of Oklahoma of his application for
relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253(c)(1)(A) (requiring COA for state prisoner to
appeal denial of relief under § 2241); Montez
v. McKinna, 208 F.3d 862, 866-69 (10th Cir.
2000). Applicant signed a waiver of his right to a jury trial
during his state criminal proceeding. But he then claimed the
waiver was invalid, and he filed his § 2241 application
asking the district court to order the state court to conduct
a jury trial. Concluding that the waiver was valid, the
district court denied relief. We deny a COA and dismiss the
appeal. We rely, however, on the ground that Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), precludes federal-court
was charged in Oklahoma state court with domestic abuse
(assault and battery) and related offenses. At a pretrial
hearing he signed a waiver of his right to a jury trial so
that he could qualify for a state mental-health court
program. Because he did not complete the program, his case
was put back on the trial docket. He then filed a motion in
the state trial court for reinstatement of a jury trial,
stating his waiver was not knowing, willing, or voluntary.
There was no transcript of the pretrial hearing, so the court
held an evidentiary hearing. Applicant testified that he had
believed he was signing paperwork to enter the mental-health
program, rather than signing a waiver, because he did not
read the paperwork. He further claimed he did not recall
either his attorney or the judge advising him about the
waiver. Applicant's then-attorney testified that although
he could not remember specifically discussing the waiver with
Applicant, his standard practice is to advise defendants of
the rights they are waiving and the permanence of such a
waiver. The court determined that the waiver was knowing and
voluntary and denied Applicant's motion.
filed a petition for emergency relief with the Oklahoma Court
of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) seeking either a writ of
prohibition or writ of mandamus. But the OCCA ruled that
Applicant could not establish that the lower court's
denial of his jury-trial motion was "unauthorized by
law," as required for a writ of prohibition, nor could
he show that he had a "clear legal right to the relief
sought," as required for a writ of mandamus. Aplt. App.
at 139-41 (Okla. Crim. App., Order Den. Pet. (June 29, 2018)
then sought federal-court relief under § 2241,
requesting an order requiring the state court to provide him
a jury trial. The State responded that Applicant had validly
waived his right to a jury trial, and the district court
agreed. The court also held (1) that Applicant had exhausted
his available state remedies by raising his invalid-waiver
claim in the state trial court and then seeking emergency
relief from the OCCA on the same ground, and (2) that it was
not required to abstain from exercising jurisdiction under
Younger. Because we hold that the district court
should have abstained, we need not address any other issues.
STANDARD FOR COA
is not entitled to a COA if no reasonable jurist would find
it debatable that his application (1) fails to state a valid
constitutional claim or (2) is procedurally barred. See
Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). He fails on
the procedural prong, because the district court was required
to abstain under Younger. We review de novo the
district court's ruling regarding abstention. See
Walck v. Edmonson, 472 F.3d 1227, 1232 (10th Cir. 2007).
The General Rule
the Younger abstention doctrine, federal courts are
to abstain from exercising jurisdiction to interfere with
state proceedings ...