O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838 (1999)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 97-2048. Argued March 30, 1999—Decided June 7, 1999

After respondent Boerckel's state convictions were affirmed by the Illinois

Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court denied his petition for leave to appeal, he filed a federal habeas petition raising six grounds for relief. In denying the petition, the District Court found, among other things, that Boerckel had procedurally defaulted his first three claims by failing to include them in his petition to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Seventh Circuit 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 order to satisfy 28 U. S. C. 2254(b)(1), (c), under which federal habeas relief is available to state prisoners only after they have exhausted their claims in state court.

Held: In order to satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a state prisoner must present his claims to a state supreme court in a petition for discretionary review when that review is part of the State's ordinary appellate review procedure. As a matter of comity, 2254(c)—which 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"—requires that state prisoners give state courts a full and fair opportunity to resolve federal constitutional claims before those claims are presented to the federal courts. See, e. g., Castille v. Peoples, 489 U. S. 346, 351. State prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process. Here, Illinois' established, normal appellate review procedure is a two-tiered system: Most criminal appeals are heard first by the intermediate appellate courts, and a party may petition for leave to appeal a decision by the Appellate Court to the Illinois Supreme Court. Whether to grant such a petition is left to the sound discretion of the Illinois Supreme Court, Ill. Sup. Ct. Rule 315(a). Although a state prisoner has no right to review in the Illinois Supreme Court, he does have a "right . . . to raise" his claims before that court. That is all 2254(c) requires. Boerckel's argument that Rule 315(a) discourages the filing of discretionary petitions raising routine allegations of error, and instead directs litigants to present to the

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