Habeas Proceedings FAQs

A person who is in custody under a state court judgment may challenge his or her conviction in federal court on the ground that there was a violation of his or her federal constitutional right. It is called a 2254 petition because the statute governing federal habeas petitions challenging state court judgments is 28 U.S.C. section 2254.

If you file a 2254 petition in the Western District of Washington, it is assigned to both a magistrate judge and a district court judge. The magistrate judge is responsible for the preliminary litigation. Because the magistrate judge does not have the legal authority to issue a final order, the magistrate judge will issue a report and recommendation to the district court judge. After that, the parties will have an opportunity to object to the conclusions reached by the magistrate judge. The district court judge can then either adopt the magistrate judge’s recommendation or issue his or her own order.

A person who is in custody under a state court judgment may challenge his or her conviction in federal court on the ground that there was a violation of his or her federal constitutional right. It is called a 2254 petition because the statute governing federal habeas petitions challenging state court judgments is 28 U.S.C. section 2254.

A 2254 petition must be filed in the federal district court that has jurisdiction over the county where the conviction occurred. The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington has jurisdiction over Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom, Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Skamania, Thurston, and Wakhiakum counties.

Only issues related to federal constitutional violations (with the exception of Fourth Amendment claims) may be raised in a 2254 petition. The federal court will not consider issues based solely on state law. Also, the federal court cannot consider any claims that were not first presented to the highest state court. With limited exceptions, you must first exhaust all of your claims by presenting them, with citations to governing federal authority, to both the Washington Court of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court before proceeding to federal court.

Our office cannot represent 2254 habeas petitioners in non-capital cases unless and until we are appointed to the case by the district court. If you wish for our office to represent you, you should file a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus accompanied by a motion for appointment of counsel. In capital cases, you are entitled to court-appointed counsel, and an attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office or the CJA habeas panel will be appointed to represent you.

If you were convicted in state court, you have an automatic right to an appeal in the state court of appeal. You have a right to appointed counsel, and the state court will consider any issues raised by you and your attorney. When you file a federal habeas petition, you may only raise issues related to constitutional violations, and you have no right to the assistance of counsel. Additionally, under governing federal law, there is a high degree of deference afforded to state court decisions. That means, in most cases, a federal court will deny a petition for writ of habeas corpus, even if it thinks the outcome of the trial was wrong, unless you can show that the decision of the state court was unreasonable.

Yes, you have very little time to prepare your federal habeas petition. Generally, a 2254 federal habeas petition must be filed within a year after your conviction became final. A conviction usually becomes final (1) on the date the United States Supreme Court denies a petition for writ of certiorari; or (2) if United States Supreme Court review is not sought, 90 days after the Washington Supreme Court issues its decision or denies rehearing. A petition is tolled while a properly filed personal restraint petition is pending in Washington state court. Although there are some additional ways to toll the statute of limitations, your petition will be dismissed if you miss the filing deadline. If you have any concern about how much time you have left under the statute of limitations, we recommend filing a petition, which can always be amended at a later date. You should do this even if your personal restraint petition is pending as the 2254 action may be stayed pending the resolution of your personal restraint petition.

A 2255 petition may be filed by a person in federal custody to challenge a federal criminal conviction and/or sentence. Unlike a 2254 petition, which challenges a state-court conviction and/or sentence, a 2255 petition is not limited to federal constitutional claims. 28 U.S.C.

§ 2255 provides that it may be used to raise claims that your sentence or conviction was unauthorized under any law of the United States.

The petition may be filed on the form provided by the District Court. Copies of the form and instructions for filing can be obtained from the District Court’s website here.[1]  The petition should be filed in the court of conviction.

 

[1] http://www.uscourts.gov/forms/civil-forms/motion-vacateset-aside-sentence-motion-under-28-usc-ss-2255

Yes, you have very little time to prepare your federal habeas petition. Generally, a 2255 federal habeas petition must be filed within a year after your federal conviction became final. A federal conviction usually becomes final (1) on the date the United States Supreme Court denies a petition for writ of certiorari; or (2) if United States Supreme Court review is not sought, 90 days after the federal court of appeals issues its decision or denies rehearing. Although there are some ways to toll the statute of limitations, your petition will be dismissed if you miss the filing deadline.