GRANBERRY V. GREER, 481 U. S. 129 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Granberry v. Greer, 481 U.S. 129 (1987)

Granberry v. Greer

No. 85-6790

Argued February 24, 1987

Decided April 21, 1987

481 U.S. 129


Petitioner, a state prisoner, filed a habeas corpus action in Federal District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The court dismissed the petition on the merits. On petitioner's appeal to the Court of Appeals, respondent for the first time interposed the defense that petitioner had not exhausted his state remedies. The court rejected petitioner's argument that the nonexhaustion defense had been waived by the failure to assert it in the District Court, and remanded the cause to the District Court with instructions to dismiss without prejudice.

Held: Where the State fails to raise an arguably meritorious nonexhaustion defense in the district court, the court of appeals should exercise discretion in each case to determine whether the interests of comity and federalism, and the interests of justice, will be better served by addressing the merits forthwith or by requiring a series of additional state and district court proceedings before reviewing the petitioner's claim. The failure to exhaust state remedies does not deprive an appellate court of jurisdiction to consider the merits of a habeas corpus application. The appellate court is not required to dismiss for nonexhaustion notwithstanding the State's failure to raise the issue below; nor is the appellate court obligated to regard the State's omission as an absolute waiver of the claim. The history of the exhaustion doctrine supports the middle course announced in this case. The Court of Appeals' judgment in this case is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings, because the court simply held that the nonexhaustion doctrine could not be waived, and made no attempt to determine whether the interests of justice would be better served by addressing the merits of the habeas petition or by requiring additional state proceedings before doing so. Pp. 481 U. S. 131-136.

780 F.2d 14, vacated and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 481 U. S. 130

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