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Champeau v. People

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 8, 2017




         On September 27, 2017, Petitioner filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas petition in this district (Dkt. 1, “Petition”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Petitioner has consented to have the undersigned conduct all further proceedings in this case. (See Dkt. 2, 4.)

         The Petition stems from Petitioner's January 6, 2016 misdemeanor conviction and sentencing in Orange County Superior Court Case No. 14WF1642 (the “State Conviction”). (Petition at 2.)[1] Petitioner sustained the State Conviction pursuant to a guilty plea to counts of battery and resisting a public or peace officer, and he received a sentence of three years of probation and six days in jail. (See docket for OCSC Case No. 14WF1642.) Although Petitioner alleges that he submitted an untimely appeal to the California Court of Appeal that was not accepted (Petition at 2-3), [2] the electronic dockets available for the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court do not show any direct appeal from the State Conviction, nor do they show any state post-conviction proceedings challenging the State Conviction.

         Over a year and a half passed following the State Conviction. In July 2017, Petitioner mailed a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 habeas petition to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, which challenged the State Conviction. The petition was assigned Case No. 3:17-cv-01525-BEN-BGS (the “Prior Federal Petition”). The Prior Federal Petition was dismissed without prejudice on August 27, 2017, on the grounds that Petitioner did not appear to be in custody and had not paid his filing fee or sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and with advice that Petitioner should proceed under Section 2254 in this District if he wished to challenge the State Conviction.

         The Petition is dated September 27, 2017, and was filed on that date.


         The Petition suffers from two readily apparent defects that must be addressed.

         First, the Petition names as Respondent “The People of the State of California.” This is improper. Under Rule 2(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, the proper Respondent is “the state officer who has custody.” The Notes to Rule 2(a) make clear that, if a petitioner is on probation - as appears to be the case here - the proper Respondents are the particular probation officer responsible for supervising the petitioner and the official in charge of the probation agency. If this action proceeds, Petitioner must amend the Petition to designate the correct Respondents.

         Second, the Petition admittedly is unexhausted. Federal courts may not grant habeas relief to a person held in state custody unless the petitioner has exhausted his available state court remedies as to the issue(s) presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982); Fields v. Waddington, 401 F.3d 1018, 1020 (9th Cir. 2005) (“We may review the merits of Petitioner's habeas petition only if he exhausted state court remedies.”). “[T]he exhaustion doctrine is designed to give the state courts a full and fair opportunity to resolve federal constitutional claims before those claims are presented to the federal courts.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999) (emphasis added); see also Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (to give the State the chance to pass upon and resolve violations of his federal rights, a state prisoner must exhaust his available state remedies before seeking federal habeas relief). To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must “fairly present” his federal claim to the state courts, i.e., give them a fair opportunity to consider and correct violations of the prisoner's federal rights. See Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995); Peterson v. Lampert, 319 F.3d 1153, 1155-56 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc).

         Petitioner admits that he has not raised any of the five Grounds set forth in the Petition in the California Court of Appeal or California Supreme Court on direct appeal or through a habeas petition filed in the California Supreme Court. (Petition at 5-7.) As noted above, Petitioner alleges he submitted an untimely appeal that was rejected and not filed. Thus, having failed to properly pursue the direct appeal process described in Note 2 above (i.e., appealing to the Appellate Division and then seeking transfer to the California Court of Appeal), and having failed to pursue the alternative route of seeking habeas relief in the state high court (see McMonagle, 802 F.3d at 1098-99), Petitioner has not fairly presented his five claims to the state courts and they are unexhausted as a result.

         When a habeas petition is fully unexhausted, as is the case here, the petitioner has two options. He can voluntarily dismiss his petition without prejudice, so that he may pursue exhaustion in the state courts and then return to federal court once his claims are exhausted. Alternatively, he may ask the Court to stay his case while he pursues exhaustion in the state courts, pursuant to the Rhines stay procedure. See Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005) (authorizing stays of “mixed” petitions); and Mena v. Long, 813 F.3d 907 (9th Cir. 2016) (finding the Rhines stay procedure applicable to fully unexhausted petitions). To obtain a Rhines stay, a petitioner must show: (1) “good cause” for the failure to exhaust the claims at issue; (2) that the unexhausted claims are “potentially meritorious”; and (3) and that the petitioner has not engaged in “intentionally dilatory litigation tactics.” Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277-78. The Supreme Court has cautioned that a Rhines stay should be afforded “only in limited circumstances.” Id. at 277.

         As set forth below, the Court has directed Petitioner to file a Response to this Order to Show Cause. In his Response, Petitioner shall state: whether he believes the Petition is exhausted and, if so, explain why; or whether he concedes that the Petition is unexhausted and, if so, indicate clearly which of the above two options he wishes to exercise. Petitioner is cautioned that, at present, the Court is disinclined to grant a Rhines stay given the apparent untimeliness of the Petition, which would render element (2) above unsatisfied. In addition, there is no apparent basis in the record for finding that there was good cause for Petitioner's failure to exhaust his claims, thus rendering element (1) unsatisfied as well. Nonetheless, if Petitioner wishes to seek a stay of this action and believes that he can satisfy the Rhines standard, he may attempt to do so in his Response and the Court will consider his arguments carefully.[3]


         The one-year limitations period that governs the Petition is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Petitioner was convicted on January 6, 2016, and he did not pursue a timely appeal, nor did he seek state habeas relief. Generally, a misdemeanor conviction is “final” for purposes of the Section 2244(d)(1) limitations period 90 days after the California Court of Appeal denies a transfer application. McMonagle, 802 F.3d at 1097-98 (when petitioner “appealed his conviction through the proper channels” by appealing to the Appellate Division and then requesting transfer, his conviction was final 90 days after the California Court of Appeal denied transfer). Here, as discussed earlier, Petitioner did not follow the “proper channels” for appealing the State Conviction. Under California law, he had 30 days from his January 6, 2016 State Conviction in which to file a notice of appeal in the trial court, and he admittedly did not do so on a timely basis. See Cal. R. Ct. 8.852(a), 8.853; see also Cal. R. Ct. 8.852(d) (the court clerk must reject and not file an untimely notice of appeal from a misdemeanor conviction). Accordingly, for federal statute of limitations purposes, Petitioner's state conviction became “final” on the expiration of that 30-day period, i.e., on February 5, 2016. See Randle v. Crawford, 604 F.3d 1047, 1054-57 (9th Cir. 2010) (when petitioner filed untimely notice of appeal ...

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