PLILER, WARDEN v. FORD
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 03-221. Argued April 26, 2004--Decided June 21, 2004
Five days before the 1-year statute of limitations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) would have run, respondent filed two pro se "mixed" federal habeas petitions--those containing both unexhausted and exhausted claims--and motions to stay the petitions while he returned to state court to exhaust the unexhausted claims. The Magistrate Judge gave him three options: (1) The petitions could be dismissed without prejudice and respondent could refile after exhausting the unexhausted claims; (2) the unexhausted claims could be dismissed and he could proceed with only the exhausted claims; or (3) he could contest the Magistrate Judge's finding that some claims were unexhausted. He chose the first option with respect to one petition and failed to respond with respect to the other. The Federal District Court dismissed his petitions without prejudice. He then filed habeas petitions in the California Supreme Court, which were both denied. The federal court dismissed his subsequently refiled pro se habeas petitions with prejudice as untimely under AEDPA, see 28 U. S. C. §2254(d), and denied him a certificate of appealability (COA). The Ninth Circuit granted a COA, concluding that his initial petitions were timely under §2254(d) and that his later petitions related back to the initial ones. The Ninth Circuit determined that although the District Court correctly concluded that it did not have discretion to stay respondent's mixed petitions, it could have acted on his stay motions had he chosen the Magistrate Judge's second option and then renewed the prematurely filed stay motions. It also held that the District Court had to give respondent two specific warnings: first, that it could not consider his motions to stay the mixed petitions unless he chose to amend them and dismiss the then-unexhausted claims; and second, if applicable, that his federal claims would be time barred, absent cause for equitable tolling, upon his return to federal court if he opted to dismiss the petitions without prejudice and return to state court to exhaust all his claims.
Held: The District Court was not required to provide the warnings directed by the Ninth Circuit. Pp. 4-9.