Mitchell v. Valenzuela

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 07-01-2015
  • Case #: 12-55041
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judges Pregerson and Wardlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

A magistrate judge does not have the authority to deny a motion in which denial leads to ultimate relief sought; the magistrate judge must submit a report and recommendation to the district court for which will be reviewed de novo.

Keith Andrew Mitchell was convicted of murder in California state court. He appealed to both the California Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court. Both courts denied relief. Mitchell then filed his first federal habeas corpus petition. The state claimed that Mitchell did not exhaust all of his state remedies. Mitchell voluntarily dismissed his petition. Mitchell then filed a second habeas corpus claim. Three of Mitchell’s claims were previously raised at state court, and two were asserted in the first federal petition. The state moved to dismiss the petition because all claims had not been exhausted at the state level. The state claimed that “mixed” petitions should be dismissed in their entirety, or the unexhausted claims must be struck. Mitchell responded with a motion to stay. The magistrate judge concluded that the motion to dismiss was well taken and the motion to stay lacked evidence. The district court dismissed Mitchell’s petition with prejudice. Mitchell appealed, arguing that the magistrate judge over stepped his authority when denying the motion to stay. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined whether the magistrate judge erred. The panel agreed with Mitchel, reasoning that a magistrate judge lacks authority to deny a motion, in which denial leads to ultimate relief sought. Further, the panel explained denying such a motion was dispositive. The panel concluded that a motion to stay and abbey, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, is generally dispositive of unexhausted claims, because petitioners run the risk of forever losing their opportunity for any federal review. The panel again noted that the magistrate judge had no authority to hear and determine a motion to stay and abey habeas corpus proceedings. The magistrate judge is required to submit a report and recommendation to the district court, for which will be reviewed de novo. VACTED AND REMANDED.

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