LOCATION: Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County
DOCKET NO.: 97-2048
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
CITATION: 526 US 838 (1999)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1999
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1999
David B. Mote - Argued the cause for the respondent
William L. Browers - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Facts of the case
After Darren Boerckel's state convictions of rape, burglary, and aggravated battery were affirmed by the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court denied his petition for leave to appeal, he filed a federal habeas corpus petition. The petition asked for relief on six grounds: (1) that Boerckel had not knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights; (2) that his confession was not voluntary; (3) that the evidence against him was insufficient to sustain the conviction; (4) that his confession was the fruit of an illegal arrest; (5) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal; and (6) that his right to discovery of exculpatory material was violated. In denying the petition, the District Court found that Boerckel had procedurally defaulted his first three claims by failing to include them in his petition to the Illinois Supreme Court. In reversing and remanding, the Court of Appeals concluding that Boerckel had not procedurally defaulted those claims because he was not required to present them in a petition for discretionary review to the Illinois Supreme Court in order to satisfy 28 U. S. C. Sections 2254(b)(1), (c), the exhaustion requirement. Under the exhaustion requirement federal habeas relief is available to state prisoners only after they have exhausted their claims in state court.
Must a state prisoner present all of his claims to a state supreme court in a petition for discretionary review in order to satisfy the exhaustion requirement, 28 U. S. C. Sections 2254(b)(1), (c), for federal habeas relief?
Media for O'Sullivan v. BoerckelAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1999 in O'Sullivan v. Boerckel
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 07, 1999 in O'Sullivan v. Boerckel
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 97-2048, O'Sullivan against Boerckel will be announced by Justice O'Connor.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
This case comes on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
The respondent Darren Boerckel was convicted in an Illinois Trial Court of rape, burglary, and aggravated burglary.
He appealed his convictions to the Illinois Appellate Court which affirmed.
He then filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
That Court denied the petition, didn't take the case.
Later, Boerckel filed a federal habeas petition seeking relief from his convictions.
The District Court found that Boerckel had procedurally defaulted three of his claims by failing to include them in his previous petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that Boerckel had not procedurally defaulted those claims because he was not required to present them in a petition for discretionary review to the Illinois Supreme Court.
In an opinion filed with the Clerk of the Court today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Federal habeas law requires State prisoners to exhaust their state remedies before they bring their claims in Federal Court.
Thus, it gives the State courts an opportunity to act on their federal claims before the filing of a federal habeas petition.
The question presented here is a recurring one in habeas law.
What state remedies does a prisoner have to invoke to satisfy that exhaustion requirement?
In this case we are asked to decide whether a prisoner has to seek relief in the Illinois Supreme Court when that Court has only discretionary control over its docket.
The Court has the opportunity to say, we will take the case or not, just as this Court exercises discretion over its docket.
So, Illinois has which is rather typical a two-tiered appellate review system and most criminal appeals are heard by the Intermediate Appellate Court.
Any additional appeal from that court are presented to the Illinois Supreme Court in a petition for leave to appeal.
The Illinois Supreme Court has discretion whether to take the case or not.
The exhaustion rule is codified in Section 2254(c) of the federal habeas statute.
It provides that a habeas petitioner shall not be deemed to have exhausted State court remedies.
If he has the right under State law to raise by any available procedure, the question presented.
This language does not require prisoners to invoke clearly fruitless or duplicated procedures in State Courts, but we hold today that it does require state prisoners to give State Courts the opportunity to correct any constitutional errors by invoking one complete realm in the State's established review procedure.
In this case, that includes asking the Illinois Supreme Court for leave to appeal on all the claims.
Although Boerckel had no right to review of his claims by the Illinois Supreme Court he did have a right to raise his claims in that court.
Although, our holding today has the potential to increase the number of claims filed in State Supreme Courts.
We note that nothing in the decision requires the exhaustion of a specific state remedy when state law provides that the remedy is unavailable.
We hold only that the creation of a discretionary review system does not without more, make review unavailable.
Justice Souter has filed a concurring opinion.
Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion which Justices Ginsburg and Breyer have joined.