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Stafford v. Arnold

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 10, 2017

JOSEPH STAFFORD, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC ARNOLD, Respondent.

          FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Introduction

         Petitioner is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel, with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges a 2014 prison disciplinary conviction for failing to obey an order. Pending before the court is respondent's motion to dismiss on grounds that petitioner's claims are not exhausted and procedurally defaulted. (ECF No. 11.) For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned recommends that respondent's motion be granted.

         Discussion

         Respondent argues that petitioner's claims are not exhausted and procedurally defaulted because the California Supreme Court denied petitioner's state habeas petition by citing In re Dexter, 25 Cal.3d 921, 925-26 (1979). (See ECF No. 11-1 at 71.) Dexter stands for the proposition that a state habeas petitioner “will not be afforded judicial relief unless he has exhausted administrative remedies.” Id. at 925.

         Exhaustion of State Court Remedies

         Prisoners in state custody who wish to challenge collaterally in federal habeas proceedings either the fact or length of their confinement are first required to exhaust state judicial remedies, either on direct appeal or through collateral proceedings, by presenting the highest state court available with a fair opportunity to rule on the merits of each and every claim they seek to raise in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (c); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 515-16 (1982).

         In In re Dexter, the California Supreme Court held that the court will not afford a prisoner judicial relief unless he has first exhausted available administrative remedies. 25 Cal.3d at 925. The California Supreme Court's citation to In re Dexter demonstrates that the court did not reach the merits of petitioner's claims because he failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. See Harris v. Super. Ct., 500 F.2d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1974) (en banc) (“If the denial of the habeas corpus petition includes a citation of an authority which indicates that the petition was procedurally deficient or if the California Supreme Court so states explicitly, then the available state remedies have not been exhausted as the California Supreme Court has not been given the required fair opportunity to correct the constitutional violation.”).

         As observed recently by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California,

District courts in California have consistently held that if the California Supreme Court denies a petition with a citation to In re Dexter, the prisoner has not exhausted state court remedies as required. See, e.g., Riley v. Grounds, 2014 WL 988986 at *4 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 10, 2014) (granting motion to dismiss petition as unexhausted in light of California Supreme Court's summary denial with a citation to In re Dexter); Turner v. Director of CDC, 2014 WL 4458885 at *3 n. 2 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 10, 2014) (“[F]or exhaustion purposes, the citation to Dexter alone is sufficient, without the need to review the state petition, to establish that the claims in the first amended petition were never considered on their merits by the state court and, thus, were not ‘fairly presented' within the meaning of AEDPA.”); Dean v. Diaz, 2014 WL 1275706 at *5 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2014) (“This court has regularly relied on a citation to Dexter to find that a federal petition is unexhausted.”).

Stamos v. Davey, 2017 WL 412619 at * 1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 21, 2017.)

         Petitioner retained the ability to refile his state habeas petition after exhausting his claims through the administrative procedure but he filed his federal habeas petition instead. Based on the California Supreme Court's citation to In re Dexter, the undersigned finds that petitioner has not exhausted his claims.

         Procedural Default

         A federal court will not review questions of federal law decided by a state court if the decision also rests on a state law ground that is independent of the federal question and adequate to support the judgment. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729-30 (1991). In the context of direct review by the United States Supreme Court, the “independent and adequate state ground” doctrine ...


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