Published on July 1, 2019
Early last week Spolin Law won a key ruling for a client on a writ of habeas corpus in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California.
The client had contacted the firm just weeks before the deadline for a federal writ of habeas corpus. Federal writs have extremely strict deadlines, and individuals who file writs after the deadline typically get an automatic denial regardless of the merits of their arguments.
Besides the deadline, federal writs also have another requirement: writs of habeas corpus based on state convictions require that the issue at stake be litigated in the county’s Superior Court, the Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court. Only after losing in all three courts is a litigant allowed to bring the argument to federal court in a writ of habeas corpus.
This requirement was the client’s essential problem: he had just a few weeks of time before the federal deadline but had not yet raised his key argument (ineffectiveness of counsel) in any of the state courts. Moreover, the process of raising his claim in all the state courts would have taken several months at the very least (and certainly not the mere weeks he had before his federal deadline). While federal courts typically “pause” the deadline period for state court litigation filed and litigated properly, there was no guarantee that the federal court would consider the client’s state filings to be properly filed and litigated.
Spolin Law, a criminal appeals law firm under the direction of Aaron Spolin, attempted to solve this problem by seeking a “stay” from the federal court. Essentially, the firm filed the client’s federal writ of habeas corpus in federal court along with a request that the federal court preemptively affirm that they would count the federal writ as having been filed within the one-year limitations period regardless of the length of the state court proceedings.
United States Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato issued the written opinion granting Mr. Spolin’s requested stay. She sympathized with the client’s desire to have a “‘protective’ petition in federal court to avoid the ‘predicament’ of ‘litigating in state court for years only to find out in the end’ the state court petition was never ‘properly filed’ and thus that his federal petition is time-barred.”
Spolin Law has also filed a state court writ regarding the same issues that are discussed in the federal writ. As the firm litigates this issue, it hopes to win in state court and thus negate the need to appeal any denial to federal court. Nonetheless, should the client not prevail in any of the three levels of state courts, the doors to federal court will be open as a result of Spolin Law’s diligent efforts to preserve every opportunity for the client to win his writ of habeas corpus and — ideally — secure his freedom.