CASTILLE V. PEOPLES, 489 U. S. 346 (1989)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346 (1989)

Castille v. Peoples

No. 87-1602

Argued December 6, 1988

Decided February 22, 1989

489 U.S. 346


Following the Pennsylvania Superior Court's affirmance, on direct appeal, of respondent's conviction of assault, robbery, and related crimes, he filed with the State Supreme Court successive unsuccessful petitions for allocatur, which, under state law, can be granted in the court's discretion "only when there are special and important reasons therefor." Respondent next filed a petition for federal habeas relief, raising various federal claims, some of which had been raised before the state courts only in one or the other of respondent's unsuccessful petitions for allocatur. The Federal District Court dismissed the petition for failure to exhaust state remedies. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. Without considering whether respondent could obtain state collateral review of his claims, the court held that their inclusion in the allocatur petitions sufficiently exhausted state remedies, since the State's highest court had thereby been given an opportunity to correct the alleged constitutional infirmities in respondent's conviction.


1. Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c) provides that a state law judgment cannot be reviewed on federal habeas if the petitioner has a state law right "to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented." This bar does not apply where the petitioner has already made a "fair presentation" of the particular claim to the state courts and has exhausted his direct appeals, since, in such a situation, it can reasonably be assumed that, even if further state procedures are available, resort to them would be useless. That assumption. is not justified, however, when the claim has been presented to the state courts for the first and only time in a procedural context in which its merits will not be considered unless "there are special and important reasons therefor." Raising the issue in that fashion is not "fair presentation" for purposes of the exception, and the bar of § 2254(c) continues to apply. The Court of Appeals therefore erred in resting its conclusion that respondent had exhausted his state remedies upon his presentation of the federal claims in the allocatur petitions. Pp. 489 U. S. 349-351.

Page 489 U. S. 347

2. Whether the requisite exhaustion nonetheless exists because respondent's claims are now procedurally barred under Pennsylvania law should be decided by the Court of Appeals on remand. Pp. 489 U. S. 351-352.

838 F.2d 462, reversed and remanded.

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

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