United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ARTHUR L. TIGGS, Petitioner,
STEVEN JOHNSON, et al,, Respondents.
MCNULTY. United States District Judge
Petitioner in this matter, Arthur L. Tiggs, is a state
prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ
of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (See
DE 1.) Mr. Tiggs has moved for a stay and abeyance of this
habeas matter in light of his recently-initiated state court
motion for a new trial based on newly-discovered evidence.
(DE 18.) For the following reasons, his motion will be
BACKGROUND AND PLEADINGS
2007, Mr. Tiggs was convicted in New Jersey Superior Court,
Law Division, Essex County, of three criminal counts:
first-degree purposeful/knowing murder, in violation of N.J.
Stat. Ann. § 2C:11-3A (1), (2); third-degree unlawful
possession of a handgun without a permit, in violation of
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-5b; and second-degree possession
of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, in violation of N.J.
Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-4A. That state court sentenced Mr.
Tiggs to life imprisonment, with an 85% parole disqualifier.
The Superior Court, Appellate Division, affirmed Mr.
Tiggs's conviction and sentence in July 2010, and the
Supreme Court of New Jersey subsequently denied certification
in November 2010.
December 2010, Mr. Tiggs filed a petition for post-conviction
relief ("PCR") in state court, asserting that he
had received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The
Superior Court denied Tiggs's PCR petition in June 2012.
The Appellate Division affirmed that decision in June 2014,
and the Supreme Court of New Jersey denied certification on
December 5, 2014.
Tiggs subsequently filed his current habeas petition, which
is dated December 3, 2015, and was received by the Court on
December 16, 2015. The petition lists eight grounds, the
majority of which center on claims that Mr. Tiggs was denied
his right to a fair trial as a result of various rulings by
the trial court and that he received ineffective assistance
of counsel. (DE 1, passim.) Respondents filed their
answer to the petition on March 18, 2016. (DE 9.)
7, 2018, Mr. Tiggs moved in New Jersey state court to obtain
a new criminal trial based on unspecified newly-discovered
evidence. (DE 19 at 2-3.) Shortly thereafter, on or about
July 5, 2018, Mr. Tiggs filed the present motion to stay this
federal habeas action. (DE 18.) Mr. Tiggs indicates that he
"wish[es] to stay [this matter] to exhaust a claim of
newly discovered evidence that [he] want[s] to include in
[his] pending habeas corpus petition." (DE 18-2 at
¶ 4.) Mr. Tiggs provides no additional substantive
information about his state court filing; he asserts only
that this "meritorious claim [is] pending before the
[s]tate court of New Jersey." (Id. at¶6.)
filed their opposition to Mr. Tiggs's stay request on
July 20, 2019. (DE 19.) Respondents argue that Mr.
Tiggs's motion to stay this matter should be denied
because he has presented only vague and limited information
in support of it. These contentions, they say, fail to
satisfy the standard for a stay announced in Rhines v.
Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). (Id. at 2.)
further assert that Mr. Tiggs's "return to the state
court will undoubtedly hamstring this Court for many more
months, and prevent a timely decision in this matter."
(Id. at 4.) Mr. Tiggs has not submitted a reply in
further support of his stay motion.
Stay and Abeyance Standard
prisoner applying for a writ of habeas corpus under §
2254 in federal court must first "exhaust the remedies
available in the courts of the State," unless "(i)
there is an absence of available State corrective process; or
(ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective
to protect the rights of the applicant." 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(b)(1); see also Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S.
509, 515 (1982). A petitioner exhausts 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 collateral post-conviction relief
proceedings. See, e.g., O'Sullivan v, Boerekel,
526 U.S. 838, 847 (1999) (announcing the rule "requiring
state prisoners to file petitions for discretionary review
when that review is part of the ordinary appellate review
procedure in the State"); see also 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.").
to exhaust all state remedies may place a habeas petition in
jeopardy of missing the one-year statute of limitations
deadline set out in § 2244(d)(1). A court may therefore,
in certain "limited circumstances," grant a
protective stay to permit a petitioner to exhaust his
unexhausted claims without letting the limitations period
expire on the exhausted claims. See Mines, 544 U.S.
at 277; accord Crews v. Horn,360 F.3d 146, 151 (3d
Cir. 2004) ("Staying a habeas petition pending
exhaustion of state remedies is a permissible way to ...