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Dykeman v. Brown

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 8, 2019

L.L. BROWN, et al., Defendants.


          HON. SUSAN D. WIGENTON U.S.D.J.:

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed in this matter by Defendants Bonds and Brown. (ECF No. 37). Plaintiff filed a response to that motion in August 2019. (ECF No. 42). For the following reasons, the motion is granted and judgment shall be entered in favor of Defendants Bonds and Brown.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On or about October 1, 2014, Plaintiff, William Dykeman, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in which he sought to challenge his state court convictions. (Docket No. 14-6111 at ECF No. 1). Following a series of procedural issues, Petitioner filed an amended habeas petition on or about January 12, 2016. (Docket No. 14-6111 at ECF No. 14). Petitioner also filed a motion requesting that the Court compel the prison in which he was then housed - South Woods State Prison - to provide him with a considerable period of extra time per week in the prison's law library. (Docket No. 14-6111 at ECF No. 15).

         On January 15, 2016, this Court screened Petitioner's amended habeas petition and entered an order directing Petitioner to show cause why his habeas petition should not be dismissed for lack of exhaustion. (Docket No. 14-6111 at ECF No. 16). As this Court recounted in that order,

On July 15, 2005, [Plaintiff] was convicted of numerous crimes including three counts of sexual assault. [Plaintiff] appealed, and the Appellate Division affirmed his conviction in March of 2009. See State v. Dykeman, 2009 WL 529220 (N.J. App. Div. Mar. 4, 2009). Although the Appellate Division affirmed the conviction and rejected most of [Plaintiff]'s sentencing arguments, the Appellate Division ordered the matter remanded for resentencing pursuant to State v. Natale, 184 N.J. 458, 495-96, 878 A.2d 724 (2005) (restructuring New Jersey's entire sentencing scheme by finding presumptive terms unconstitutional). Id. [Plaintiff] petitioned for certification to the New Jersey Supreme Court, but certification was denied. 199 N.J. 542 (2009). [Plaintiff] was thereafter resentenced on July 24, 2009, and received the same sentence as had been originally imposed. See State v. Dykeman, 2012 WL 371577 (Feb. 7, 2012). The Appellate Division affirmed on February 7, 2012, see id., and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on December 13, 2012, 212 N.J. 462 (2012).
After his resentencing but before his second direct appeal had concluded, [Plaintiff] filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the New Jersey Superior Court - Law Division in August 2009. According to the petition, the Law Division Judge denied [Plaintiff]'s PCR application on or about August 25, 2014. [Plaintiff] has apparently appealed that ruling to the New Jersey Appellate Division, whose decision remains pending. [Plaintiff] has thus not yet received a decision on his PCR claims from either the New Jersey Superior Court - Appellate Division or the New Jersey Supreme Court.
[Plaintiff] admits in his petition that many of his claims were not raised on either of his direct appeals, but only in his PCR briefs. As any claims presented on PCR have not yet been decided by the Appellate Division or the New Jersey Supreme Court, those claims have not yet been exhausted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (b)(1).
28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1) states that a habeas petitions brought by a state prisoner challenging his conviction or sentence “shall not be granted unless it appears that” the petitioner has exhausted all of his claims in the state courts, there is no state court process applicable to the raised claims, or circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant. Although [Plaintiff] has stated that he believes that his PCR process has been in some ways insufficient, he has not clearly stated the basis for this assertion other than to claim ineffective assistance of PCR counsel and to suggest that he disagrees with the PCR court's disposition of his discovery motions.
Because many, although not all, of [Plaintiff's] claims have not been exhausted, his petition presents a mixed petition. As the Third Circuit has explained, where a court is faced with a mixed petition, the court has four options: “(1) dismiss the petition without prejudice; (2) stay the proceedings and hold them in abeyance until the claims are exhausted; (3) allow [Petitioner] to delete his unexhausted claims; and (4) deny the petition if it found all of [Petitioner's] unexhausted claims to be meritless under § 2254(b)(2) (allowing the denial of a petition on the merits ‘notwithstanding the failure of the applicant to exhaust'). Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 274-78 [(2005).]” Mallory v. Bickell, 563 Fed.Appx. 212, 215 (3d Cir. 2014).
Pursuant to Rhines, a stay of a mixed petition should be granted only in “limited circumstances.” 544 U.S. at 277. A district court may only grant a stay where “the petitioner had good cause for his failure to exhaust, his unexhausted claims are potentially meritorious, and there is no indication that the petitioner engaged in intentionally dilatory litigation tactics.” Id. at 278. The cases in which stays are most appropriate are those where a dismissal of the petition without prejudice would result in the petitioner's inability to timely file his habeas petition. See Crews v. Horn, 360 F.3d 146, 152 (3d Cir. 2004) (“where an outright dismissal could jeopardize the timeliness of a collateral attack” a stay is appropriate); Williams v. Walsh, 411 Fed.Appx. 459, 461 (3d Cir. 2011) (“[w]here the timeliness of a habeas corpus petition is at issue . . . a District Court has discretion to stay” the petition); Ragland v. Barnes, No. 14-7294, 2015 WL 1035428, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 10, 2015).
Here, [Plaintiff]'s direct appeal did not conclude until December 2012 with the denial of certification on his appeal from his resentencing. [Plaintiff] filed his PCR petition, which remains pending in the Appellate Division, before that date. As the filing of the PCR petition appears to have tolled the running of the AEDA statute of limitations, [Plaintiff]'s one year limitation period has not even started to run. See Figueroa v. Buechele, No. 15-1200, 2015 WL 1403829, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 25, 2015). Thus, [Plaintiff] would be in no danger of losing his ability to timely file if this Court dismissed his petition without prejudice. As such, a stay is inappropriate under these circumstances. Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277; Williams, 411 Fed.Appx. at 461.
Based on the current filings, it is not clear that [Plaintiff's] claims can be denied on the merits regardless of exhaustion. As such, this Court is faced with two options: dismiss the petition without prejudice or allow [Plaintiff] to choose whether he wishes to proceed solely on his unexhausted claims.

(Id. at 2-5, paragraph numbers and record citations omitted). Given this background, this Court directed Plaintiff to file a response within thirty days showing why his petition ...

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