Lee v. Jacquez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 06-09-2015
  • Case #: 12-56258
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Pregerson
  • Full Text Opinion

For a state court to bar review of a habeas petition by a federal court, the state procedure rule must be both independent of the federal question and adequate; adequacy is determined by asking whether the state rule was firmly established and regularly followed at the time of the petitioner’s default.

Donna Kay Lee was convicted of two counts of murder. On her most recent habeas petition, the district court dismissed her claims, four on the merits and the rest procedurally bared under Ex parte Dixon, which “prohibits California state courts from considering habeas claims that should have been raised on direct appeal but were omitted.” On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed the claims that were procedurally barred, finding that the district court had erroneously concluded that the Dixon rule was an independent and adequate state procedure barring federal review of Lee’s habeas claims. On remand, the district court concluded that the Dixon state rule was independent and adequate. On appeal again, the panel found that the State did not meet its burden in proving the Dixon rule was adequate at the time of Lee’s procedural default, and remanded the case back for the district court to address Lee’s claim on the merits. The panel noted that for a state court to bar review of a habeas petition by a federal court, the state procedure rule must be both independent of the federal question and adequate, and that adequacy is determined by asking whether the rule was “firmly established and regularly followed” at the time of the petitioner’s default. The State had the burden of proof and presented statistics to prove Dixon’s adequacy, however, the panel found them to be insufficient to meet the State’s burden because the statistics only showed Dixon’s application of all habeas denials in the months surrounding Lee’s default, and not how many cases the Dixon bar should have been applied. Furthermore, the panel concluded it did not need to decide whether Dixon was an independent state rule because it was inadequate. REVERSED and VACATED.

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