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Rocha v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

October 28, 2019

ISABEL ROCHA, JR, Petitioner,


          Stanley A. Bastian United States District Judge.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Petitioner's First Amended Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody. ECF No. 10. Petitioner, a prisoner at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Respondent has not been served.


         An initial defect with the amended petition is that it fails to name a proper party as a respondent. The proper respondent in a federal petition seeking habeas corpus relief is t he person having custody of t he petitioner. Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426 (2004); Stanley v. Cal. Supreme Court, 21 F.3d 359, 360 (9th Cir. 1994). If the petitioner is incarcerated, the proper respondent is generally the warden of the inst itution where the petitioner is incarcerated. See Ortiz-Sandoval v. Gomez, 8 1 F . 3 d 891 (9th Cir. 1996). Failure to name a proper respondent deprives federal courts of person al jurisdiction. See Stanley, 21 F.3d at 360.


         Petitioner challenges his 2018 Grant County guilty pleas to first-degree rape of a child and first-degree child molestation. He was sentenced on January 16, 2019, to 120 months' incarceration. Petitioner provides no information regarding any direct appeal. ECF No. 10 at 2.

         In his grounds for relief, Petitioner argues that the State of Washington has no jurisdiction to decide federal constitutional matters. ECF No. 10 at 5-12. It has long been settled that state courts are competent to decide questions arising under the U.S. Constitution. See Baker v. Grice, 169 U.S. 284, 291 (1898) (“It is the duty of the state court, as much as it is that of the federal courts, when the question of the validity of a state statute is necessarily involved, as being in alleged violation of any provision of the federal constitution, to decide that question, and to hold the law void if it violate that instrument.”); see also Worldwide Church of God v. McNair, 805 F.2d 888, 891 (9th Cir. 1986) (holding that state courts are as competent as federal courts to decide federal constitutional matters). Therefore, Petitioner's arguments to the contrary lack merit.

         Additionally, before a federal court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner, the prisoner must exhaust the state court remedies available to him. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27 (2004). Exhaustion generally requires that a prisoner give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838 (1999). A petitioner has not exhausted a claim for relief so long as the petitioner has a right under state law to raise the claim by available procedure. See Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c).

         To meet the exhaustion requirement, the petitioner must have “fairly present[ed] his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim.” Baldwin, 541 U.S. at 29; see also Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1995). A petitioner fairly presents a claim to the state court by describing the factual or legal bases for that claim and by alerting the state court “to the fact that the ... [petitioner is] asserting claims under the United States Constitution.” Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-366; see also Tamalini v. Stewart, 249 F.3d 895, 898 (9th Cir. 2001) (same). Mere similarity between a claim raised in state court an d a cl a i m in a federal habeas petition is insufficient. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-366.

         Furthermore, to fairly present a claim, the petitioner “must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process.” O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845. Once a federal claim has been fairly presented to the state courts, the exhaustion requirement is satisfied. See Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971). It appears from the face of the Petition and the attached documents that Petitioner has not exhausted his state court remedies as to each of his grounds for relief.


         Petitioner asserts that the Washington state constitution contradicts the federal constitution regarding the Fifth Amendment right to “presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” He claims “no bill of indictment” was brought against him rendering h is arrest, conviction an d imprisonment illegal.

         Petitioner seems to argue that because the state courts have defied “federally established procedures and processes for the adjudication of crimes” only “a court of federal jurisdiction” has jurisdictional authority over his claims. His bald assertion that “due process of the law was ignored” is unsupported by his factual allegations.

         As the U.S. Supreme Court stated long ago, “Prosecution by information instead of by indictment is provided for by the laws of Washington. This is not a violation of the Federal Constitution.” See Gaines v. Washington, 277 U.S. 81, 86 (1928). There is no federal constitutional violation when a prosecuting attorney's criminal information is substituted for the grand jury's indictment. See Hurtado v. California,110 U.S. 516 (1884) (rejecting the claim that an indictment is essential to due process of law and that a state violates the Fourteenth Amendment by prosecuting a defendant ...

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