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Denial of FM Petition Gains Fed Court Traction

Jonathan Duke v. Josie Gastelo Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket: 20-55787, Opinion Date: April 5, 2023. Petitioner sought resentencing under Section 1172.6 the day after California enacted that statute. While his resentencing proceeding was ongoing, and shortly before the expiration of the deadline for Petitioner to file for relief pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), Petitioner filed a federal habeas petition. Among other things, his petition alleged that several forms of prosecutorial misconduct had occurred in his trial. A magistrate judge denied Petitioner’s unopposed motion to stay his federal proceedings and recommended that the district court dismiss Petitioner’s habeas petition without prejudice pursuant to Younger. The district court accepted the magistrate judge’s recommendation that Younger abstention was warranted and required dismissal. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Petitioner’s federal habeas corpus petition, reversed the district court’s denial of his motion to stay, and remanded. The panel explained that Younger is not implicated here. Although there is an ongoing state proceeding—the resentencing under Section 1172.6 based on a change in state law—the federal petition, in this case, does not seek an injunction to prevent state officers from moving forward with the Section 1172.6 proceeding. That proceeding is, in substance, a new case based on a new statute, and Petitioner seeks no relief that would interfere with it. The panel held that the denial of Petitioner’s motion for a stay was also error because it was based on the misunderstanding that the district court lacked the authority to stay Petitioner’s habeas petition.

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