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Dukes v. Pfeiffer

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 30, 2017

MELVIN DUKES, Petitioner,
v.
CHRISTIAN PFEIFFER, Respondent.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO DISMISS PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

         Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Given that the instant petition contains unexhausted claims and Petitioner has failed to obey a court order, the undersigned recommends dismissal of the petition.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 3, 2017, Petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition. (ECF No. 1). On April 6, 2017, the Court ordered Petitioner to show cause why the petition should not be dismissed for failure to exhaust state court remedies and for failure to state cognizable federal habeas claims. (ECF No. 4). To date, Petitioner has failed to file a response, and the time for doing so has passed.[1]

         II.

         DISCUSSION

         Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases requires preliminary review of a habeas petition and allows a district court to dismiss a petition before the respondent is ordered to file a response, if it “plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases.

         A. Exhaustion

         A petitioner in state custody who is proceeding with a petition for writ of habeas corpus must exhaust state judicial remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). The exhaustion doctrine is based on comity to the state court and gives the state court the initial opportunity to correct the state's alleged constitutional deprivations. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982). A petitioner can satisfy the exhaustion requirement by providing the highest state court with a full and fair opportunity to consider each claim before presenting it to the federal court. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999); Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 276 (1971).

         It does not appear that Petitioner has presented his claims to the California Supreme Court. (ECF No. 1 at 12, 14).[2] It is possible that Petitioner has presented all of his claims to the California Supreme Court and failed to indicate this to the Court. However, as Petitioner has not responded to the order to show cause, it appears that Petitioner failed to exhaust his claims in the instant petition. If Petitioner has not sought relief in the California Supreme Court for the claims that he raises in the instant petition, the Court cannot proceed to the merits of those claims. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1).

         B. Failure to Obey Court Order

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), a district court may dismiss an action for failure to prosecute, failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or failure to comply with the court's orders. See, e.g., Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991) (recognizing federal court's inherent power to “act sua sponte to dismiss a suit for failure to prosecute”); Hells Canyon Preservation Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 403 F.3d 683, 689 (9th Cir. 2005) (recognizing that courts may dismiss an action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) sua sponte for a plaintiff's failure to prosecute or comply with the rules of civil procedure or the court's orders). Local Rule 110 provides that a “[f]ailure of counsel or of a party to comply with these Rules or with any order of the Court may be grounds for the imposition by the Court of any and all sanctions . . . within the inherent power of the Court.” District courts have the inherent power to control their dockets and “in the exercise of that power, they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate . . . dismissal of a case.” Thompson v. Housing Auth., 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986).

         In determining whether to dismiss an action under Rule 41(b), the court must consider several factors: “(1) the public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court's need to manage its docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the defendants; (4) the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits; and (5) the availability of less drastic alternatives.” Omstead v. Dell, Inc., 594 F.3d 1081, 1084 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Henderson v. Duncan, 779 F.2d 1421, 1423 (9th Cir. 1986)).

         In the instant case, the Court finds that the public's interest in expeditiously resolving this litigation and the Court's interest in managing the docket weigh in favor of dismissal, because Petitioner has refused delivery of court documents on three different occasions and the Court cannot hold this case in abeyance indefinitely awaiting compliance by Petitioner. The third factor, risk of prejudice to Respondent, also weighs in favor of dismissal, since a presumption of injury arises from the occurrence of unreasonable delay in prosecuting an action. See Anderson v. Air West, 542 F.2d 522, 524 (9th Cir. 1976). The fourth factor, public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits, is outweighed by the factors in favor of dismissal. Finally, as the Court's order had informed Petitioner that failure to comply with the order would result in dismissal of the petition, the Court finds that there are no feasible less drastic alternatives. See In re Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Prod. Liab. ...


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