United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY AND HOLD IN ABEYANCE
PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [Dkt. 4]
George Caram Steeh
a habeas case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
prisoner Wayne Seals was convicted in the Wayne Circuit Court
of second degree murder, assault with intent to commit great
bodily harm, and commission of a felony with a firearm.
Petitioner's habeas application raises two claims: (1)
Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of trial
counsel, and (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct.
Presently before the Court is Petitioner's motion to stay
the petition (Dkt. 4) so that he can exhaust his state court
remedies with respect to a sentencing claim he wishes to
raise in this action that was not presented to the state
courts on direct appeal.
Petitioner's 2013 convictions for the above offenses, he
filed a direct appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals,
raising what now form his two habeas claims. The Michigan
Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion.
People v. Seals, No. 316474 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 13,
204).Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave
to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme
Court denied the application on June 30, 2015. People v.
Seals, No. 150765 (Mich. Sup. Ct. June 30, 2015).
states that on March 29, 2016, he filed a motion for relief
from judgment in the trial court raising a new claim,
asserting that his Sixth Amendment jury trial rights were
violated by the trial court at sentencing. According to
Petitioner, the trial court granted the motion, and he
resentenced Petitioner to 7½ to 15 years for his
second-degree murder conviction. The prosecutor appealed this
decision, and that appeal is still pending in the Michigan
Court of Appeals.
prisoner filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under
28 U.S.C. §2254 must first exhaust all state remedies.
See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845
(1999) (“state prisoners must give the state courts one
full fair opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by
invoking one complete round of the State's established
appellate review process”); Rust v. Zent, 17
F.3d 155, 160 (6th Cir. 1994). To satisfy this requirement,
the claims must be “fairly presented” to the
state courts, meaning that the prisoner must have asserted
both the factual and legal bases for the claims in the state
courts. See McMeans v. Brigano, 228 F.3d 674, 681
(6th Cir. 2000); see also Williams v. Anderson, 460
F.3d 789, 806 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing McMeans).
federal district court has discretion to stay a petition
raising unexhausted claims to allow a petitioner to present
those claims to the state courts and then return to federal
court on a perfected petition. See Rhines v. Weber,
544 U.S. 269, 276 (2005). Stay and abeyance is available only
in “limited circumstances” such as when the
one-year statute of limitations poses a concern, and when the
petitioner demonstrates “good cause” for the
failure to exhaust state remedies before proceeding in
federal court, the petitioner has not engaged in
intentionally dilatory litigation tactics, and the
unexhausted claims are not “plainly meritless.”
Id. at 277.
pending case, Petitioner's unexhausted sentencing claim
does not appear to be plainly meritless - as indeed the trial
court granting him relief - and he does not appear to be
engaged in dilatory litigation tactics. Petitioner notes that
he filed his motion for relief from judgment on March 29,
2016, about nine months after the Michigan Supreme Court
denied relief on direct appeal. Dismissal of this case while
Petitioner completes exhaustion of his sentencing claim could
therefore result in a subsequent petition being barred by the
one-year statute of limitations found in 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d). The Court therefore concludes that it is not an
abuse of discretion to stay this case while Petitioner
completes exhaustion of his state remedies.
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. Therefore, to ensure that
there are no delays by McGinnis in exhausting his state court
remedies, this Court will impose time limits within which he
must proceed with his state court post-conviction
proceedings. See Palmer v. Carlton, 276 F.3d 777,
781 (6th Cir. 2002).
tolling is conditioned upon McGinnis diligently pursuing
relief in the state courts by continuing to pursue timely
appeals in the state court of his motion for relief from
judgment, and then returning to federal court within sixty
(60) days of completing the exhaustion of his state
post-conviction remedies. See Hargrove v. Brigano,
300 F.3d 717, 718 (6th Cir. 2002).
it is ORDERED that Petitioner's motion
to stay is GRANTED. The petition for writ of
habeas corpus shall be held in abeyance pending completion of
state post-conviction review proceedings. This tolling is
conditioned upon Petitioner timely appealing any adverse
ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals to the Michigan
Supreme Court and then filing a motion to reopen his habeas
petition-using the case number already assigned to this
case-within sixty (60) days after the conclusion of the state
court post-conviction proceedings. Alternatively, should the
decision of the trial court be upheld by the Michigan Court
of Appeals, and should the prosecutor elect not to proceed to