United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR STAY AND ABEYANCE [ECF NO.
DISTRICT JUDGE' JENNIFER A. DORSEY.
Beau Maestas moves to stay this capital habeas case while he
exhausts claims in state court. The respondents have filed a
notice stating that they do not oppose Maestas's
motion. I grant the motion and stay this case
while Maestas completes his state-court litigation.
was convicted in 2006 in Nevada's Eighth Judicial
District Court, in Clark County, of first degree murder and
other crimes related to “an attack on two children in a
trailer located in the CasaBlanca RV Park in Mesquite,
Nevada, resulting in the death of one victim and permanent
physical injuries to the other victim.” After a direct
appeal and state habeas proceedings, Maestas initiated this
federal habeas action on December 28, 2018. I appointed the
Federal Public Defender for the District of Nevada (FPD) to
represent him and, with counsel, Maestas filed an
amended habeas petition on November 25, 2019. He now moves to
stay this case during the pendency of his exhaustion petition
in state court.
Rhines v. Weber,  the United States Supreme Court limited
the district courts' discretion to allow habeas
petitioners to return to state court to exhaust claims. When
a petitioner pleads both exhausted and unexhausted
claims-known as a mixed petition-the district court may stay
the petition to allow the petitioner to return to state court
to exhaust the unexhausted ones only if: (1) the habeas
petitioner has good cause; (2) the unexhausted claims are
potentially meritorious; and (3) petitioner has not engaged
in dilatory litigation tactics. “[G]ood cause turns on
whether the petitioner can set forth a reasonable excuse,
supported by sufficient evidence, to justify [the failure to
exhaust a claim in state court].” “While
a bald assertion cannot amount to a showing of good cause, a
reasonable excuse, supported by evidence to justify a
petitioner's failure to exhaust,
will.” The Supreme Court's opinion in
Pace v. DiGuglielmo suggests that this standard is
not particularly stringent, as the High Court held that
“[a] petitioner's reasonable confusion about
whether a state filing would be timely will ordinarily
constitute ‘good cause' to excuse his failure to
contends that he meets these requirements for a
Rhines stay, and respondents do not disagree.
Focusing on Claims One and Five, as Maestas does, I determine
that Maestas has shown good cause for his failure to
previously exhaust those claims. With respect to Claim Five,
he claims that his state post-conviction counsel was
ineffective by not raising ineffective assistance of trial
counsel claims. For Claim One, he theorizes that the
State's violation of its obligations under Brady v.
Maryland invalidated his guilty plea and deprived
him of impeachment evidence in relation to the State's
case at the penalty retrial.
find that Maestas has sufficiently shown that his unexhausted
claims are potentially meritorious,  and there is no showing
that Maestas has engaged in intentionally dilatory litigation
tactics. I thus conclude that the requirements
for a Rhines stay of this action pending exhaustion
of Maestas's claims in state court are satisfied, and I
grant Maestas's motion for a stay.
exercising my discretion, I recognize the Nevada Supreme
Court's holding in Crump v. Warden,
under which there is a possibility that the Nevada courts may
consider Maestas's unexhausted claims on their merits
upon a showing of ineffective assistance of his
post-conviction counsel. My intention is that this will be
the last time that this action is stayed to facilitate
exhaustion of claims in state court. Maestas must therefore
exhaust all of his unexhausted claims in state court during
the stay imposed by this order.
THEREFORE ORDERED that Maestas's Motion for Stay and
Abeyance [ECF No. 32] is GRANTED.
This action is STAYED while Maestas exhausts his
unexhausted claims for habeas corpus relief in state
FURTHER ORDERED that Maestas must file a status
report by June 15, 2020, describing the status of his
state-court proceedings, and he must file a status report
every six months thereafter (on or before December
15, 2020; June 15, 2021; etc.) until this stay is
lifted. Respondents may, if necessary, file a
response to any of those status reports within 15 days after
each of Maestas's filings, and Maestas will have 15 days
from any response to file a reply.
FURTHER ORDERED that Maestas must move to lift this
stay within 30 days after the conclusion of his state court
proceedings. If Maestas does not comply with the
time limits in this order, or if he otherwise fails to
proceed with diligence during this stay, the court may
entertain a motion by respondents to dismiss this action.