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Salas v. Warren

United States District Court, Third Circuit

April 26, 2013

JUAN C. SALAS, Petitioner,
v.
CHARLES WARREN et al., Respondents. JUAN C. SALAS, Petitioner,
v.
CHARLES WARREN, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER APPLIES TO BOTH ACTIONS

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

IT APPEARING THAT:

1. On September 8, 2011, the Clerk received Petitioner's § 2254 habeas application that gave rise to Salas v. Warren ("Salas-I"), Civil Action No. 11-5154 (NLH) (D.N.J.). See Salas-I, Docket Entry No. 1. The Salas-I petition indicated that Petition was convicted in the New Jersey Superior Court Law Division on May 13, 2005. See id. at 1. The Court's own research determined that his conviction was affirmed by the Appellate Division on July 3, 2007. See State v. Salas, 2011 WL 204910, at *1 ( N.J.Super. Ct. A.D. Jan. 24, 2011) (referring to the decision reached in State v. Salas, No. A-5553-04 ( N.J.Super. Ct. A.D. July 3, 2007)). Petitioner did not seek certification from the Supreme Court of New Jersey with regard to Petitioner's direct appellate challenges. See State v. Salas, 2011 WL 204910, at *1 ("Defendant did not seek certification from the Supreme Court").

2. The Salas-I petition asserted that Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief ("PCR") on January 24, 2008. See Salas-I, Docket Entry No. 1, at 2. That PCR application was denied by the Law Division on the merits, and the denial was affirmed by the Appellate Division on January 24, 2011. See Salas, 2011 WL 204910. Petitioner sought certification from the Supreme Court of New Jersey as to that PCR; his application to that effect was denied on July 14, 2011. See State v. Salas , 207 N.J. 189 (2011).

3. On October 27, 2011, Petitioner moved this Court for stay and abeyance of his Salas-I petition indicating that, as of October 25, 2011, he had already filed his second PCR application with the state courts. See Salas-I, Docket Entry No. 3. The Court granted Petitioner's request and, on June 8, 2012, ordered a stay. See id., Docket Entry No. 6. In conjunction with ordering stay, this Court informed Petitioner of his rights, pursuant to the holding of Mason v. Meyers , 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000). See Salas-I, Docket Entry No. 6, at 8-9, n. 7.

4. On June 19, 2012, Petitioner submitted in Salas-I a letter indicating that: (a) his second PCR application was denied by the Law Division as untimely (seemingly, without reaching the merits of Petitioner's second PCR challenges); but (b) he, nonetheless, wished to include in his Salas-I federal habeas application the very challenges raised and dismissed in that second untimely PCR application. See id., Docket Entry No. 8. The letter closed with a request to provide Petitioner with a blank Section 2254 petition form in order to enable his execution of an all-inclusive amended petition. See id. at 1.

5. Less than two weeks later, the Clerk received another § 2254 habeas application from Petitioner; that submission gave rise to Salas v. Warren ("Salas-II"), Civil Action No. 12-4275 (NLH) (D.N.J.). See Salas-II, Docket Entry No. 1.

6. It appears self-evident that Petitioner's Salas-II action is duplicative of his Salas-I proceeding.

The power of a federal court to prevent duplicative litigation is intended "to foster judicial economy and the comprehensive disposition of litigation, '" Curtis v. Citibank, N.A. , 226 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Kerotest Manufacturing Co. v. C-0-Two Fire Equipment Co. , 342 U.S. 180, 183 (1952)), and "to protect parties from the vexation of concurrent litigation over the same subject matter.'" Id . (quoting Adam v. Jacobs , 950 F.2d 89, 93 (2d Cir. 1991)).

Porter v. NationsCredit Consumer Disc. Co. , 2003 Bankr. LEXIS 933, at *33 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. 2003). Thus, the Court will direct the Clerk to terminate Salas-II and will proceed solely with Petitioner's Salas-I action; the election in favor of Salas-I is made order to eliminate any statute of limitations concerns.[1] See Urcinoli v. Cathel , 546 F.3d 269, 272 (3d Cir. 2008).

7. However, taking notice of Petitioner's letter indicating that he wishes to raise, in Salas-I: (a) all his state and federal law based challenges raised on direct appeal to the Appellate Division but not challenged before the Supreme Court of New Jersey; (b) all his state and federal law based challenges raised, during his first PCR, to the Law Division, Appellate Division and the Supreme Court of New Jersey; and (c) all his state and federal law based challenges raised and dismissed as untimely during his second PCR, this Court finds it warranted to note the following legal concepts which Petitioner should consider prior to executing his all-inclusive petition.

a. "In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Estelle v. McGuire , 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); accord Barry v. Bergen County Probation Dept. , 128 F.3d 152, 159 (3d Cir. 1997). "Federal courts hold no supervisory authority over state judicial proceedings and may intervene only to correct wrongs of constitutional dimension." Smith v. Phillips , 455 U.S. 209, 221 (1982). "If a state prisoner alleges no deprivation of a federal right, § 2254 is simply inapplicable. It is unnecessary in such a situation to inquire whether the prisoner preserved his claim before the state courts." Engle v. Isaac , 456 U.S. 107, 120 n.19 (1982). "[E]rrors of state law cannot be repackaged as federal errors simply by citing the Due Process Clause." Johnson v. Rosemeyer , 117 F.3d 104, 110 (3d Cir. 1997). Moreover, "it is well established that a state court's misapplication of its own law does not generally raise a constitutional claim." Smith v. Horn , 120 F.3d 400, 414 (3d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted); see also Smith v. Zimmerman , 768 F.2d 69, 71, 73 (3d Cir. 1985). Therefore, Petitioner's challenges should be limited to, and only to, claim based on federal law that were duly exhausted in the state courts.[2]
b. A state prisoner applying for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court must first "exhaust[] the remedies available in the courts of the State, " unless "there is an absence of available State corrective process[] or... circumstances exist that render such process ineffective." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); Rose v. Lundy , 455 U.S. 509, 515 (1982); Toulson v. Beyer , 987 F.2d 984, 987 (3d Cir. 1993); Duarte v. Hershberger , 947 F.Supp. 146 (D.N.J. 1996); see also Lambert v. Blackwell , 134 F.3d 506, 513 (3d Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 919 (2001) (finding that "Supreme Court precedent and the AEDPA mandate that prior to determining the merits of [a] petition, [a court] must consider whether [petitioner] is required to present [his or her] unexhausted claims to the [state's] courts"). The courts of a state must be afforded an "opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights."[3] Wilwording v. Swenson , 404 U.S. 249, 250 (1971); Picard v. Connor , 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971); Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, Del. Cty., Pa. , 959 F.2d 1227, 1230 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. dismissed, 506 U.S. 1089 (1993).
i. A petitioner must exhaust state remedies by presenting his federal constitutional claims to each level of the state courts empowered to hear those claims, either on direct appeal or in post-conviction proceedings. See Ross v. Petsock , 868 F.2d 639 (3d Cir. 1989); see also O'Sullivan v. Boerckel , 526 U.S. 838 (1999) ("requiring state prisoners [in order to fully exhaust their claims] to file petitions for discretionary review when that review is part of the ordinary appellate review procedure in the State"); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c). "An applicant shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State, within the meaning of this section, if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented"). Only if a petitioner's federal ...

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