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Elliott v. South Dakota Seventh Circuit Court

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

May 25, 2018

RAYMOND D. ELLIOTT, Petitioner,
v.
SOUTH DAKOTA SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT, Respondent.

          ORDER FOR SERVICE

          VERONICA L. DUFFY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner, Raymond D. Elliott, an inmate at the Rapid City Minimum Unit in Rapid City, South Dakota, has filed a petition for writ of mandamus. See Docket No. 1. From the writ and other materials Mr. Elliott has filed, the court concludes he was convicted of aggravated assault in South Dakota state court and sentenced on March 28, 2017, to four years' imprisonment. See Docket No. 1-4. Mr. Elliott seeks to collaterally attack his state court conviction. See Docket No. 1. He also seeks an order from this court setting him free from his present incarceration. See Docket Nos. 1 & 4.

         The court previously sent Mr. Elliott a form for filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and asked him to fill out the form. See Docket No. 5. Mr. Elliott subsequently sent a letter indicating that he would like to pursue a writ because of his advanced age (83) and his perception that he might receive his requested remedy sooner through a writ. See Docket No. 6.

         The Eighth Circuit states categorically that the exclusive vehicle for habeas relief for prisoners in the custody of a state is 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Singleton v. Norris, 319 F.3d 1018, 1022-23 (8th Cir. 2003); Crouch v. Norris, 251 F.3d 720, 723 (8th Cir. 2001). “A person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court” can only obtain habeas relief through § 2254, no matter how his pleadings are styled. Crouch, 251 F.3d at 723. “Prisoners cannot avoid the . . . rules [governing federal habeas remedies] by inventive captioning . . . [T]he name makes no difference. It is substance that controls.” Curry v. United States, 507 F.3d 603, 604 (7th Cir. 2007). Thus, despite the caption of Mr. Elliott's pleading as a “writ of mandamus, ” the fact is that he is seeking to invalidate his state court conviction and be freed from incarceration at the hands of the state. That is quintessential habeas relief. Thus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is the sole applicable source of remedy. Singleton, 319 F.3d 1022-23; Crouch, 251 F.3d at 723; Curry, 507 F.3d at 604. The court therefore construes Mr. Elliott's application for a writ of mandamus to be, in fact, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         There are a number of procedural rules that apply to an application for habeas relief by a state prisoner under § 2254. Chief among them is the doctrine of state court exhaustion, which limits federal habeas review of state court convictions as follows:.

(b)(1) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that-
(A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the state; or
(B) (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.
(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.

See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c). The above codifies what was previously a judicial doctrine of exhaustion.

         A federal court may not consider a claim for relief in a habeas corpus petition if the petitioner has not exhausted his state remedies. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). “[T]he state prisoner must give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court in a habeas petition.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). If a ground for relief in the petitioner's claim makes factual or legal arguments that were not present in the petitioner's state claim, then the ground is not exhausted. Kenley v. Armontrout, 937 F.2d 1298, 1302 (8th Cir. 1991). The exhaustion doctrine protects the state courts' role in enforcing federal law and prevents the disruption of state judicial proceedings. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982). The Supreme Court has stated:

Because “it would be unseemly in our dual system of government for a federal district court to upset a state court conviction without an opportunity to the state courts to correct a constitutional violation, ” federal courts apply the doctrine of comity, which “teaches that one court should defer action on causes properly within its jurisdiction until the courts of another sovereignty with concurrent powers, and already cognizant of the litigation, have had an opportunity to pass upon the matter.”

Rose, 455 U.S. at 518 (citation omitted). The exhaustion rule requires state prisoners to seek complete relief on all claims in state court prior to filing a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Federal courts should, therefore, dismiss a petition for a writ of habeas corpus that contains claims that the petitioner did not exhaust at the state level. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Rose, 455 U.S. at 522. The exhaustion requirement is waived “only in rare cases where exceptional ...


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