Maharaj v. Secretary for Dept. of Corrections, 02-10257. Non-Argument Calendar.

Decision Date13 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. 02-10257. Non-Argument Calendar.,02-10257. Non-Argument Calendar.
PartiesKrishna MAHARAJ, Petitioner-Appellant, v. SECRETARY FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Clive A. Smith, New Orleans, LA, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Sandra Sue Jaggard, Miami, FL, for Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before BIRCH, BARKETT and WILSON, Circuit Judges.


Krishna Maharaj, a Florida prisoner, appeals the district court's dismissal of his federal habeas corpus petition, brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Since Maharaj filed his petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub.L. No 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996), 28 U.S.C. § 2241, et seq., the provisions of that act apply. Because Maharaj's resentencing had not occurred at the time he filed his habeas petition, his court judgment had not become final, and thus his federal habeas petition, which challenged all of his convictions and sentences, was not ripe for review. Accordingly, the district court's dismissal without prejudice, which will allow Maharaj to refile his federal habeas petition now that the state court has completed its resentencing, was not in error. We AFFIRM.


Maharaj, serving three life sentences for one count of first-degree murder and two counts of armed kidnapping, a 15-year sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm while engaged in a criminal offense, and who was awaiting resentencing on another conviction for first-degree murder filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his convictions and sentences on a variety of constitutional grounds, on 12 July 2001 in district court. Maharaj challenged "his convictions and sentences," R1-1-5, ¶25, and more specifically, "his convictions and sentence of death," id. at 20, ¶ 88, not just the convictions and non-capital sentences that had become final at the time of filing. The state moved to dismiss and contended that, because the state court had not resentenced Maharaj, his federal habeas petition was not yet ripe for review.

In response, Maharaj argued that (1) all of his convictions had become final, although he was awaiting resentencing on the capital conviction, (2) he had exhausted his state remedies to challenge his convictions, so his petition must be considered or run the risk of being considered time-barred under the AEDPA, and (3) he already had been imprisoned for 14 years, because of delays that were the fault of the state, which prejudiced him greatly. The state argued that Maharaj's case was not yet final for the purposes of triggering the AEDPA's statute of limitations because he had not been resentenced, and thus he would not lose his right to seek habeas relief regarding any of his convictions.

The magistrate judge issued a report, recommending that the state's motion to dismiss be granted without prejudice to Maharaj to allow him to refile his federal habeas petition after the state court had resentenced him. The magistrate judge summarized the lengthy procedural history of the case, which is undisputed by the parties. The magistrate judge recommended dismissing Maharaj's habeas petition, relying on the Ninth Circuit decision in United States v. Colvin, 204 F.3d 1221 (9th Cir.2000), to conclude that the district court should not review the petition until Maharaj's state judgment had become final after resentencing. The magistrate judge stated that the statute of limitations under the AEDPA would not begin to run until Maharaj had been resentenced, and that, as long as Maharaj timely filed his habeas petition after the resentencing, the state would be estopped from presenting the time-bar argument. The magistrate judge reasoned that, although the habeas petition clearly addressed the non-capital convictions, Maharaj "had painted his claims with such a broad brush [that] the Petition also encompasses the offense for which he is still subject to the death penalty" and that it would be impossible to separate the habeas claims that only applied to the non-capital convictions from the claims that applied to the unsentenced capital conviction. R1-16-8.

The district court granted the state's motion to dismiss, overruled Maharaj's objections to the magistrate judge's report, and stated that "the critical question is whether, under the unusual circumstances presented here, [Maharaj's] convictions may be now considered separately from and before determination of, the sentence ultimately given for the Young murder." Id. at 2. The court cited two guiding principles: (1) federal courts should avoid premature interference with ongoing state proceedings, Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and (2) the AEDPA was designed to eliminate successive, piecemeal petitions for habeas corpus relief. Id. With these two principles in mind, the court determined that Maharaj's habeas petition was not ripe for adjudication. Id. The court noted that Maharaj's petition sought relief from all of his convictions and sentences, and that "the letter and the spirit of the AEDPA" suggested that it would be appropriate to review Maharaj's petition only after the state court had resentenced Maharaj. Id. at 3. The court also found that the state would be estopped from reversing its position and attempting to raise a statute of limitations defense to a subsequent petition that was timely filed. Id. The court dismissed Maharaj's habeas petition without prejudice.

Maharaj filed a motion for certificate of appealability ("COA"), which the district court granted: "the question of whether a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a case in the same procedural posture as this one should be heard, or dismissed without prejudice, is one of first impression in the Eleventh Circuit, and is therefore one on which reasonable jurists may differ." R1-21. Maharaj proceeded with this appeal.


Maharaj argues that, although he was awaiting resentencing on one of his state convictions at the time he filed his habeas petition, because it has taken more than 15 years for the state court to vacate his death sentence and remand for resentencing, and, because the other four non-capital state court convictions and sentences were final at that time and ripe for review, he should not have to wait any longer to attempt to obtain federal habeas relief. He contends that his non-capital convictions do not implicate the state court's grant of post-conviction resentencing relief as to the capital conviction. Maharaj also avers that the district court's dismissal of his habeas claims as to the four final state convictions, by causing further delays in the habeas review process, thwarted Congress's desire to expedite this process. He further maintains that, if he is not allowed to proceed in habeas as to the final, non-capital convictions and sentences, he will be time-barred from bringing these claims in a federal habeas proceeding after he is resentenced on the capital conviction.

We review de novo a district court's denial of a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Harrell v. Butterworth, 251 F.3d 926, 930 (11th Cir.2001), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 122 S.Ct. 1367, 152 L.Ed.2d 360 (2002). Before bringing a habeas petition in federal court, a petitioner must exhaust all state remedies that are available for challenging his conviction, and the petitioner is not "deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State ... if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) & (c). The one-year period of limitation for filing...

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