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Case 3:11-cv-02060-CCC Document 26 Filed 09/20/13 Page 1 of 5

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO

JULIO A. ATILES-GABRIEL
Plaintiff
vs
EDGAR PAGAN-MONJE, Warden
Defendant

CIVIL 11-2060CCC

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Petitioner’s 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition (docket
entry 4). Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss the Petition (docket entry 12). Petitioner filed
a Response to the Motion to Dismiss (docket entry 23). The same remains unopposed. For
the reasons discussed below, the Court finds the Petition shall be DISMISSED FOR LACK
OF JURISDICTION.
I.

BACKGROUND
Petitioner Julio A. Atiles-Gabriel (herein after “Petitioner” or “Atiles-Gabriel”) is a state
prisoner presently confined in a penal institution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, has
filed a pro se application for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner
filed this habeas corpus before federal court alleging a series of irregularities in his case.
However, a review of the record before this Court indicates that Petitioner has failed to
comply with the jurisdictional pre-requisite of exhausting state remedies prior to the filing of a
2254 Petition in Federal Court.
II.

DISCUSSION
Pursuant to federal law, a prisoner who claims is being held by the state government
in violation of the Constitution, or laws of the United States may file a civil lawsuit in federal
court seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A federal court’s
review of a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition is not a direct review of a state court’s decision. The

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petition is a separate civil suit considered a collateral relief. The federal habeas corpus is
not a constitutional, but rather a statutory relief codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

Prisoners in state custody who choose to collaterally challenge in a federal habeas
proceeding their confinement are required to comply with the “independent and adequate
state ground doctrine”. See Yeboah-Sefah v. Ficco, 556 F.3d 53 (1st Cir. 2009), citing
Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 730-31 (1991). Petitioner must have met two initial
requirements. He is required to exhaust state judicial remedies, either on direct appeal or
through collateral proceedings. The highest state court must have a fair opportunity to rule
on the merits of each claim that petitioner seeks to raise in federal court. In order to fulfill
this exhaustion requirement, the petitioner must have fairly presented the substance of all
federal constitutional claims to the highest state court. Levine v. Commissioner of
Correctional Servs., 44 F.3d 121, 124 (2nd Cir. 1995).

The state court must have been appraised of both the factual and legal base of those
claims. Grey v. Hoke, 933 F.2d 117, 119 (2nd Cir. 1991). The United States Supreme
Court has held in order to satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner requesting federal
habeas corpus review is required to present claims to the state supreme court even when
its review is discretionary. O’Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838 (1999). The burden of
proving that the exhaustion requirement has ben met lies with the petitioner. Atiles-Gabriel,
however, has not met this initial burden.

In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, there is a two-tier system for post conviction
relief. In order for Petitioner to exhaust his state court remedies, Atiles-Gabriel must either
file a Rule 192.1 motion pursuant to the Puerto Rico Rules of Criminal Procedure requesting
the trial court to vacate, set aside, or correct the judgment (34 L.P.R.A. App. II, Rule 192.1),
or a petition pursuant to section 1741 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requesting a writ
of habeas corpus (34 L.P.R.A. §§ 1741-1743). An appeal may be filed from the subsequent

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denial of a Rule 192.1 motion or of a section 1741 habeas petition. Once any one of said
appeals has been denied by the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals, petitioner must then file a
writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, Id. Thus, pursuant to Puerto Rico law,
in order for Atiles-Gabriel to properly file a section 2254 petition for relief before this federal
court, he must first exhaust at least one of the two post-conviction remedies provided by the
Commonwealth laws by filing either a Rule 192.1 motion or a habeas corpus petition
pursuant to section 1741 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, reviewed by the Supreme Court
of Puerto Rico (P.R.L.A. 34 § 1779).

In the instant case, Petitioner has failed to show that he exhausted either of the local
post-conviction remedies. The record reflects that at some point he filed an appeal of his
conviction before the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals San Juan Regional Circuit Panel III, case
number KLAN 9800460 (docket entry 15, Exhibit 1). The Puerto Rico Court of Appeals
affirmed his conviction and sentence (see Exhibit 1 of docket entry 15). Neither petitioner,
whom has the burden of showing exhaustion requirements, nor Respondents have
submitted any additional information or documents that would establish that Petitioner
completed the requirement of filing a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court of
Puerto Rico. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain his petition and the same
shall be DISMISSED.

The Court finds it necessary to address the argument raised by Respondents in their
Motion to Dismiss (docket entry 12) as to this Court’s lack of jurisdiction based on the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine stems from two Supreme Court cases. In its most
basic form what the doctrine states is that it precludes district court from reviewing a final
judgment entered in a state court, and from considering claims that are inextricably

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intertwined with those raised in the state court proceeding. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co.,
263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S.
462 (1983).

Rooker-Feldman applies when the losing party in state court files suit in federal court
after the state proceedings have ended, Federación de Maestros v. Junta de Relaciones del
Trabajo, 410 F.3d 17 (1st Cir. 2005). A court will find that underlying state court proceedings
have ended if the highest state court in which review is available has affirmed the judgment
below and nothing is left to be resolved, rendering the judgment susceptible to certiorari
review under 28 U.S.C. § 1257, Federación de Maestros, at pp. 24-25. However, it is
well-settled that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not touch the writ of habeas corpus.
Indeed, federal habeas-corpus law turns Rooker-Feldman on its head. Rather than leaving
state court judgments undisturbed, it provides expressly for federal collateral review of final
state court judgments, and requires exhaustion of state remedies as a precondition for
federal relief, United States v. Gruntz, 202 F.3d 1074, 179 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Plyler
v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728 (4th Cir. 1997); Ritter v. Ross, 992 F.2d 750 (7th Cir. 1993); Blake
v. Papadakos, 953 F.2d 68 (3rd Cir. 1992); Jordahl v. Democratic Party, 122 F.3d at 198
(4th Cir. 1997); Nollet v. Justices of Trial Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
83 F.Supp. 2d 204 at FN2 (D. Mass. 2000).

In order to leave no doubt that Rooker-Feldman does not apply to habeas corpus
proceeding pursuant to section 2254, the United States Supreme Court in Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280 (2005), stated in footnote eight (8), “Congress,
if so minded, may explicitly empower district courts to oversee certain state-court judgments
and has done so, most notably, in authorizing federal habeas review of state prisoners’
petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).”

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III.

CONCLUSION
For the reasons stated, the Court concludes that Petitioner Julio A. Atiles-Gabriel’s
Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (docket entry 4) is
DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.
At San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2013.

S/CARMEN CONSUELO CEREZO
United States District Judge