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Leroytighe v. Brewer

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan

October 27, 2016

SHAWN BREWER, Respondent.


          Janet T.Neff, United States District Judge.

         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether "it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court." Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to "screen out" petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court will dismiss the petition without prejudice for failure to exhaust available state-court remedies.


         I. Factual allegations

         Petitioner Richard Leroy Tighe, Jr. presently is incarcerated at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Cass County Circuit Court to one count of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520g(1). On January 24, 2014, the circuit court sentenced Petitioner to a prison term of four to ten years, together with a fine of $500.00 and court costs of $500.00.

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, arguing that Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520g(1) does not allow the imposition of fines or costs. On October 20, 2014, the court of appeals denied leave to appeal for lack of merit in the grounds presented.[1]

         Petitioner sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court on October 14, 2015, arguing that the failure to disclose the fine and court costs rendered his guilty plea involuntary. On May 13, 2015, while his application for leave to appeal was pending, Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court, raising the following issues: (1) his plea was involuntary because of his mental illness, memory issues, and the effects of his psychoactive medications; (2) his attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to inquire into the effects of the two psychiatric medications and failing to seek a competency hearing; and (3) the court violated due process by not conducting a competency evaluation, which would have shown Petitioner to be incompetent to enter the plea. The motion for relief from judgment was denied on May 15, 2015. Nearly simultaneously, on May 14, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion in the supreme court to amend his application for leave to appeal, apparently attempting to raise the same issues presented in the motion for relief from judgment. The supreme court issued an on July 26, 2016, denying Petitioner's motion to amend to add the new issues, but remanding the case to the trial court to reconsider Petitioner's issue regarding the assessment of court costs.

         On August 9, 2016, Petitioner filed a second motion for relief from judgment in the Cass County Circuit Court, apparently raising the same issues. On August 25, 2016, the trial court held that the second motion for relief from judgment was both procedurally improper and meritless. In the same order, in response to the supreme court's order to remand, the court reconsidered and upheld the imposition of court costs.

         Petitioner filed the instant petition on or about September 12, 2016. In his petition, Petitioner raises four grounds: (1) his right to due process was violated when he was not given an opportunity to withdraw the plea, because the trial court did not advise Petitioner of the possibility that a fine and costs could be imposed, rendering his plea involuntary; (2) his plea was void because the trial court failed to hold a competency hearing; (3) trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate Petitioner's mental health and the effects of Petitioner's psychoactive medications and in failing to seek a competency evaluation; and (4) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in failing to raise the other claims and failing to advise Plaintiff of his right to file a Standard 4 brief on appeal.

         II. Exhaustion of State Court Remedies

         Before the Court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner, the prisoner must exhaust remedies available in the state courts. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). Exhaustion requires a petitioner to "fairly present" federal claims so that state courts have a "fair opportunity" to apply controlling legal principles to the facts bearing upon a petitioner's constitutional claim. See O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 842; Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275-77 (1971), cited in Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995), and Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 6 (1982). To fulfill the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must have fairly presented his federal claims to all levels of the state appellate system, including the state's highest court. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66; Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 414 (6th Cir. 2009); Hafley v. Sowders, 902 F.2d 480, 483 (6th Cir. 1990). "[S]tate prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process." O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845. The district court can and must raise the exhaustion issue sua sponte when it clearly appears that habeas claims have not been presented to the state courts. See Prather v. Rees, 822 F.2d 1418, 1422 (6th Cir. 1987); Allen, 424 F.2d at 138-39.

         Petitioner bears the burden of showing exhaustion. See Rust v. Zent, 17 F.3d 155, 160 (6th Cir. 1994). According to the petition, Petitioner may have exhausted his first ground for relief, depending on whether he actually raised the due process claim in his application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. However, the remaining issues were not properly presented to all levels of the Michigan courts, as they were presented for the first time in his motion to amend his application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied. Presentation of an issue for the first time on discretionary review to the state supreme court does not fulfill the requirement of "fair presentation." Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351 (1989). Applying Castille, the Sixth Circuit repeatedly has recognized that a habeas petitioner does not comply with the exhaustion requirement when he fails to raise a claim in the state court of appeals, but raises it for the first time on discretionary appeal to the state's highest court. See Skinner v. McLemore, 425 F.App'x 491, 494 (6th Cir. 2011); Thompson v. Bell, 580 F.3d 423, 438 (6th Cir. 2009); Warlick v. Romanowski, 367 F.App'x 634, 643 (6th Cir. 2010). Moreover, where, as here, the supreme court has denied the motion to amend the application for leave to appeal to include new issues, the court has expressly determined that the issues were not considered.

         An applicant has not exhausted available state remedies if he has the right under state law to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c). Petitioner has at least one available procedure by which to raise the issues he has presented in this application. He already has filed his one motion for relief from judgment under MICH. Ct. R. 6.502(G)(1). He has not, however, appealed the trial court's May 15, 2016 order denying Petitioner's first motion for relief from judgment. See Mich. Ct. R. 6.509(A) (providing that appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals is by application under Mich. Ct. R. 7.205 and must be filed within six months from the decision being appealed under Mich. Ct. R. 7.205(G)(3)).[2] In order to properly exhaust his claim, Petitioner must appeal the denial of his motion for relief from judgment to both the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. See Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66.

         Because Petitioner has some claims that are exhausted and some that are not, his petition is "mixed." Under Rose v. Lundy,455 U.S. 509, 522 (1982), district courts are directed to dismiss mixed petitions without prejudice in order to allow petitioners to return to state court to exhaust remedies. However, since the habeas statute was amended to impose a one-year statute of limitations on habeas claims, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), dismissal without prejudice often effectively precludes future federal habeas review. This is particularly true after the Supreme Court ruled in Duncan v. Walker,533 U.S. 167, 181-82 (2001), that the limitations period is not tolled during the pendency of a federal habeas petition. As a result, the Sixth Circuit adopted a stay-and-abeyance procedure to be applied to mixed petitions. SeePalmer v. Carlton, 276 F.3d 777, 781 (6th Cir. 2002). In Palmer, the Sixth Circuit held that when the dismissal of a mixed petition could jeopardize the timeliness of a subsequent petition, the district court should dismiss only the unexhausted claims and ...

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