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Want Federal Habeas Review? It Just Got Easier in the 9th Circuit

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 08, 2015 11:57 AM

The 9th Circuit clarified the law for misdemeanants seeking Habeas Review this Wednesday. The court en banc overruled its own 1995 decision, Larche v. Simons, requiring misdmeanants in California to exhaust all available state remedies before seeking Federal Habeus review by filing a petition in California's highest court.

The circuit found that Larche created "needless confusion for California misdeamants seeking federal habeas review," particularly in wake of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). Further, the panel found that the Larche unduly restricted California's ability to dictate its appellate review system. The court found that because McMonagle relied on the Larche to fully exhaust his California remedies before seeking federal habeas review, he was entitled to have his case reviewed, given the circumstances of the case.

California Before AEDPA

The court concluded that McMonagle was correct interpreting Larche as requiring him to petition for California habeas review in order to qualify as having exhausted his state court remedies under 28 U.S.C. sec. 2254(b)(1)(A). However, it noted that Larche was decided and implemented before the advent of AEDPA, and therefore does not discuss federal statute of limitations issues.

Relying on Larche, McMonagle argued that direct review of his conviction had ended when the California Supreme Court rejected his habeas petition; and not when the appellate court declined to accept his transfer request. Therefore, the one year statute of limitations should apply. But Judge Nguyen remained unconvinced because McMonagle's conviction became final for the purposes of AEDPA on May 12, 2010, making his petition untimely filed by approximately two months.

Reactions by McMonagle's Attorney

McMonagle's lawyer appeared pleased with the opinion of the court and said that the ruling "will have a positive effect on many misdemeanor defendants, who are no longer required to petition to the California Supreme Court before seeking habeas corpus relief in Federal Court." He also described the now defunct rule in Larche as a trap for the "unwary".

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