RHINES v. WEBER, WARDEN
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
No. 03-9046.Argued January 12, 2005--Decided March 30, 2005
After petitioner Rhines' state conviction for first-degree murder and burglary became final and his state habeas petition was denied, he filed a federal habeas petition. Because the 1-year statute of limitations imposed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) was tolled while his state petition was pending, see 28 U. S. C. §2244(d)(2), he had more than 11 months before the limitations period expired. However, by the time the District Court ruled that eight of his claims had not been exhausted in state court, the limitations period had run. If the court had dismissed his "mixed" petition, Rhines would have been unable to refile after exhausting his claims, so the court decided to hold his federal petition in abeyance while he presented his unexhausted claims in state court, provided that he commenced the state proceedings within 60 days and returned to the District Court within 60 days of completing the exhaustion. The Eighth Circuit, which had previously held that a district court has no authority to hold mixed petitions in abeyance absent truly exceptional circumstances, vacated the stay and remanded the case for the District Court to determine whether Rhines could proceed by deleting unexhausted claims.
Held: A district court has discretion to stay a mixed petition to allow a petitioner to present his unexhausted claims to the state court in the first instance and then to return to federal court for review of his perfected petition. Pp. 3-8.