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Craig v. D'Agostini

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 13, 2019

NORMAN JOHN CRAIG, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN D'AGOSTINI, [1] Respondent.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner is a county jail inmate, proceeding without counsel. Respondent moves to dismiss the petition on the grounds that petitioner fails to state a valid claim for federal habeas relief, and because petitioner failed to exhaust his state court remedies as to all of his claims. Petitioner filed an opposition; respondent did not file a reply. As discussed below, petitioner is granted thirty days in which to file a motion for stay pending exhaustion.

         II. Request for Sua Sponte Stay

         In his opposition, petitioner states that the court may find a stay of this action is appropriate because his “direct appeal” in P17CRM1258 is pending in the El Dorado County Superior Court.[2] (ECF No. 35 at 9.)

         A federal district court may not address the merits of a petition for writ of habeas corpus unless the petitioner has exhausted state court remedies with respect to each of his federal claims. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509 (1982); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). Under Rhines v. Weber, a district court may stay a mixed petition if the following conditions are met: (1) “the petitioner had good cause for his failure to exhaust, ” (2) “his unexhausted claims are potentially meritorious, ” and (3) “there is no indication that the petitioner engaged in intentionally dilatory litigation tactics.” 544 U.S. 269, 278 (2005).[3] Petitioner must meet all three prongs under Rhines. 544 U.S. at 278. The Supreme Court made clear that this option “should be available only in limited circumstances.” Id. at 277. Moreover, a stay under Rhines may not be indefinite; reasonable time limits must be imposed on a petitioner's return to state court. Id. at 277-78.

         Since Rhines, the Ninth Circuit determined that a prisoner may properly request a stay rather than be required to dismiss a habeas petition consisting entirely of unexhausted claims. Mena v. Long, 813 F.3d 907 (9th Cir. 2016) (granting district courts discretion to stay a fully unexhausted petition).

         The Supreme Court has not precisely defined what constitutes “good cause” for a Rhines stay. See Blake v. Baker, 745 F.3d 977, 980-81 (9th Cir. 2014). The Ninth Circuit has found that good cause does not require “extraordinary circumstances.” Jackson v. Roe, 425 F.3d 654, 661-62 (9th Cir. 2005). Rather, “good cause turns on whether the petitioner can set forth a reasonable excuse, supported by sufficient evidence, to justify” the failure to exhaust. Blake, 745 F.3d at 982. The fact that a petitioner was without counsel in state habeas proceedings generally establishes “good cause” because such a petitioner could not “be expected to understand the technical requirements of exhaustion and should not be denied the opportunity to exhaust a potentially meritorious claim simply because he lacked counsel.” Dixon v. Baker, 847 F.3d 714, 721 (9th Cir. 2017).

         In light of these authorities, the court is not inclined to sua sponte grant petitioner a stay of this action. However, because it appears petitioner is presently pursuing ineffective assistance of counsel claims in the El Dorado County Superior Court, he is granted thirty days in which to file a motion for stay. [4] If petitioner seeks a Rhines stay, he is cautioned that he must address each of the three Rhines prongs set forth above in order to demonstrate good cause exists for the stay. The motion shall be briefed pursuant to Local Rule 230(1). Once the motion is fully briefed, the court will address the pending motion to dismiss and the motion for stay.

         V. Conclusion

         Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that

         1. John D'Agostini is substituted as respondent; and

         2. Within thirty days from the date of this order, petitioner ...


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