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Murphy v. Attorney General of State of New Jersey

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 16, 2018


          Tysheim Murphy, # 668462/719455C East Jersey State Prison Petitioner, Pro se

          John J. Santoliquido, Esq. Office of the Prosecutor Counsel for Respondent


          NOEL L. HILLMAN, United States District Judge

         This matter is presently before the Court upon a Motion to Stay by Petitioner Tysheim Murphy. ECF No. 8. Respondent opposes the motion. ECF No. 13. The Court has read the submissions of the parties and considers this matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons discussed below, Petitioner's Motion will be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On or about April 28, 2017, Petitioner, a prisoner confined at the East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey, filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his 2010 New Jersey state court conviction. ECF No. 1. Pursuant to the Court's order, Petitioner submitted a Second Amended Petition on July 12, 2017. ECF No. 7. On or about November 18, 2015, Petitioner filed a Motion for a Stay of the habeas proceeding so that he could “exhaust all my issues before raising them on Habeas Corpus.” ECF No. 8, at 4. Specifically, Petitioner asserts that he has not exhausted his claim that his PCR counsel was ineffective. Id. at 7-8.

         Respondent filed an opposition to the Motion to Stay. ECF No. 13. Specifically, Respondent argues that Petitioner has already “challenged his underlying convictions once on direct appeal and twice on collateral review in state court.” Id. at 1. In fact, Respondent argues that Petitioner's second petition for post-conviction relief was “Dismissed with prejudice for failure to demonstrate the requisite good cause for second or subsequent PCR petitions.” Id. Finally, Respondent argues that any successive PCR petition brought to raise ineffective assistance of Petitioner's PCR counsel would also be dismissed because it is untimely under New Jersey Court Rule 3:22-12(a)(2)(C). Id.

         Petitioner filed a reply in support of his Motion to Stay. ECF No. 14. In his reply, Petitioner asserts that his second PCR petition was dismissed not on the merits but because the way it was drafted. Id. at 1. Specifically, Petitioner asserts that he failed to properly identify the claims regarding his PCR counsel. Id.


         A. Legal Standard

         A petitioner seeking federal habeas review must exhaust state court remedies for all grounds for relief asserted in a habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); Crews v. Horn, 360 F.3d 146, 151 (3d Cir. 2004). It is therefore proper and routine for district courts to dismiss habeas petitions containing both unexhausted and exhausted claims (so-called “mixed petitions”) so as to allow the state courts the first opportunity to address the petitioner's constitutional claims. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 510 (1982).

         Despite this “total exhaustion” rule, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recognized that, in some circumstances, dismissing a “mixed petition” may time-bar a petitioner from federal court under the one-year statute of limitations for § 2254 claims imposed by the Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). See Crews, 360 F.3d at 151 (“AEDPA's limitations period may act to deprive a petitioner of a federal forum if dismissal of the habeas petition is required”) (citing Zarvela v. Artuz, 254 F.3d 374, 379 (2d Cir. 2001)). Accordingly, the Third Circuit has held that “[s]taying a habeas petition pending exhaustion of state remedies is a permissible and effective way to avoid barring from federal court a petitioner who timely files a mixed petition.” See Crews, 360 F.3d at 151.

         The Supreme Court likewise has acknowledged there could be circumstances where dismissal of a mixed petition for exhaustion would result in the one-year habeas statute of limitations expiring before the petitioner was able to return to federal court. See Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 272-73 (2005). The Court held that, in limited circumstances, district courts have discretion to hold a habeas proceeding in stay and abeyance while the petitioner exhausts his unexhausted claims in state court. Id. at 277. A stay and abeyance is available only when the petitioner had good cause for failing to exhaust his claims and only if the claims have potential merit. Id. at 277-78.

         Though “[f]ew courts have provided guidance as to what constitutes ‘good cause' for failing to exhaust a claim in state court within the meaning of Rhines, ” the Third Circuit emphasizes “the need to be mindful of Justice Stevens's concurrence in Rhines, which cautions that . . . [the requirement] is not intended to impose the sort of strict and inflexible requirement that would ‘trap the unwary pro se prisoner[.]'” Locust v. Ricci, No. ...

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