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Bridges v. Lafler

March 22, 2010

ARTHUR BRIDGES, PETITIONER,
v.
BLAINE LAFLER, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Patrick J. Duggan United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER HOLDING IN ABEYANCE THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSING THE CASE

At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. District Courthouse, Eastern District of Michigan on March 22, 2010.

PRESENT: THE HONORABLE PATRICK J. DUGGAN U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

Arthur Bridges, ("Petitioner"), confined at the Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, has filed apetition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his application, filed pro se, petitioner challenges his conviction for delivery of less than 50 grams of cocaine, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 333.7401(2)(a)(iv), and being a fourth habitual offender, id. § 769.12. Petitioner has now filed a motion to stay the habeas corpus proceedings and hold the petition in abeyance to permit him to return to the state courts to present additional claims that have not been exhausted with the state courts. For the reasons stated below, the Court holds the petition in abeyance and stays the proceedings under the terms outlined in this opinion to permit petitioner to return to the state courts to exhaust his additional claims, failing which the petition will be dismissed without prejudice. The Court will also administratively close the case.

I. Background

Petitioner was convicted of the above offenses following a jury trial in the Saginaw County Circuit Court. Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. People v. Bridges, No. 277758 (Mich. Ct. App. November 13, 2008); lv. den. 483 Mich. 978, 764 N.W.2d 261 (2009).

On May 29, 2009, petitioner filed this application for writ of habeas corpus, in which he seeks habeas relief on the three claims that he raised in the Michigan appellate courts on his direct appeal.*fn1

Petitioner has now filed a motion to hold the habeas petition in abeyance so that he can return to the state courts to raise additional claims that have not been exhausted with the state courts.

II. Discussion

A federal district court has authority to abate or dismiss a federal habeas action pending resolution of state post-conviction proceedings. See Brewer v. Johnson, 139 F.3d 491, 493 (5th Cir. 1998). However, "to stay federal proceedings and hold a habeas petition in abeyance pending resolution of state court proceedings, there must be exceptional or unusual circumstances." Sitto v. Bock, 207 F. Supp. 2d 668, 676 (E.D. Mich. 2002); Hudson v. Martin, 68 F. Supp. 2d 798, 800 (E.D. Mich. 1999). A federal district court is authorized to stay fully exhausted federal habeas petitions pending the exhaustion of other claims in the state courts. See Anthony v. Cambra, 236 F.3d 568, 575 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Taylor v. Prelesnik, No. 06-13795, 2008 WL 3853300, * 2 (E.D. Mich. August 18, 2008); Tran v. Bell, 145 F. Supp. 2d 939, 941-42 (W.D. Tenn. 2001); Hill v. Mitchell, 30 F. Supp. 2d 997, 1000 (S.D. Ohio 1998).

The Court grants petitioner's motion to hold the petition in abeyance while he returns to the state courts to exhaust his additional claims. The outright dismissal of the petition, albeit without prejudice, might result in preclusion of consideration of the petitioner's claims in this Court due to the expiration of the one year statute of limitations contained in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). A common circumstance calling for abating a habeas petition arises when the original petition was timely filed, but a second, exhausted habeas petition would be time barred by the AEDPA's statute of limitations. See Hargrove v. Brigano, 300 F.3d 717, 720-21 (6th Cir. 2002).

The U.S. Supreme Court suggested that a habeas petitioner who is concerned about the possible effects of his state post-conviction filings on the AEDPA's statute of limitations could file a "protective" petition in federal court and then ask for the petition to be held in abeyance pending the exhaustion of state post-conviction remedies. See Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 416, 125 S.Ct. 1807, 1813(2005)(citing Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 278, 125 S.Ct. 1528, 1531 (2005)). A federal court may stay a federal habeas petition and hold further proceedings in abeyance pending resolution of state court post-conviction proceedings, if there is good cause for failure to exhaust and the unexhausted claims are not "plainly meritless." Rhines, 544 U.S. at 278; 125 S.Ct. at 1535.

Petitioner's claims do not appear to be "plainly meritless." See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 419 (6th Cir. 2009). Further, petitioner may assert that he did not previously raise these claims in the state courts due to the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Id., at 419, nn.4 & 5. Finally, it does not appear that petitioner has engaged in "intentionally dilatory tactics."

When a district court determines that a stay is appropriate pending exhaustion of state court remedies, the district court "should place reasonable time limits on a petitioner's trip to state court and back." Rhines, 544 U.S. at 278; 125 S.Ct. at 1535. To ensure that petitioner does not delay in exhausting his state court remedies, the Court imposes upon petitioner time limits within which he must proceed. See Palmer v. Carlton, 276 F.3d 777, 781 (6th Cir. 2002). Petitioner must present his claims in state court by filing a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment with the state trial court within sixty days from the date of this Order. See id. Further, he must ask this Court to lift the stay within sixty days of exhausting his state court remedies. See id. If the ...


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