430 F.3d 560 (2nd Cir. 2005), 04-3671, Walker v. Jastremski

Docket Nº:04-3671-PR.
Citation:430 F.3d 560
Party Name:Jeffrey A. WALKER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. David JASTREMSKI, Charles Buerer, Frank Halloran, and Tedja Tjandra, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 15, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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430 F.3d 560 (2nd Cir. 2005)

Jeffrey A. WALKER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

David JASTREMSKI, Charles Buerer, Frank Halloran, and Tedja Tjandra, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 04-3671-PR.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

November 15, 2005

Argued: September 1, 2005.

Appeal from the May 27, 2004, judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Nevas, J.), dismissing as time-barred plaintiff's suit, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which alleged that law enforcement officials and his state-appointed attorney conspired to fabricate and distort evidence that was used to bring a criminal prosecution against him. Appellant contends that the "prison mailbox" rule of Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988), and/or principles of equitable tolling apply to his request to a state court for records pertinent to the prosecution that forms the basis of his complaint.

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ALFRED U. PAVLIS, Daly & Pavlis, LLC (Brendan J. LeMoult, on the brief), Southport, Conn., for Plaintiff-Appellant.

ROBERT B. FISKE, Assistant Attorney General, State of Connecticut, Hartford, Conn. (Michael P. Farrell, Corporation Counsel, City of West Haven, and Jerome A. Lacobelle, Jr., Deputy Corporation Counsel, City of West Haven, West Haven, Conn., on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: NEWMAN, CALABRESI and STRAUB, Circuit Judges.

CALABRESI, Circuit Judge:

This case comes to us for the third time in its seesawing history. It concerns the application of the "prison mailbox" rule of Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988), to apro se prisoner's request from a state court for records pertinent to a prosecution against him that forms the basis for his civil rights suit against law enforcement officials. The prisoner, plaintiff-appellant Jeffrey A. Walker, argues that the district court erred in dismissing his complaint as barred by the three-year statute of limitations applicable to tort claims brought in Connecticut under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We conclude that Walker's untimely filing was not attributable to mail in the prison system, and therefore that the prison mailbox rule is inapplicable to his case. Moreover, the circumstances of Walker's case do not warrant equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

Background

We assume familiarity with the procedural history of this case, much of which is summarized at Walker v. Jastremski, 159 F.3d 117 (2d Cir. 1998),

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and Walker v. Jastremski, 274 F.3d 652 (2d Cir. 2001). The case arises from a criminal prosecution brought against Walker in Milford Superior Court that was dismissed on April 16, 1991 for insufficient evidence. It is undisputed that the statute of limitations for a § 1983 suit arising from that prosecution ran from that date until three years thereafter, or April 16, 1994. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577 ("No action founded upon a tort shall be brought but within three years from the date of the act or omission complained of."); Lounsbury v. Jeffries, 25 F.3d 131, 133 (2d Cir. 1994) (stating that actions brought under § 1983 must "borrow" the "most appropriate or most analogous" state statute of limitations).

On February 8, 1994, Walker delivered to prison officials, for mailing to Milford Superior Court, what he terms a Motion for the Production of Records. The "motion" requested from the court copies of the information and arrest warrant application from his 1991 prosecution, as well as a transcript of the April 16, 1991 hearing and a fee waiver application. As evidenced by a postal receipt, the court received Walker's document request three days later, on February 11, 1994. The state court clerk testified in the district court that such document requests generally are processed within three days of receipt. The court did not, however, mail the documents to Walker until May 5, 1994. He received the documents four days later, and, acting pro se, delivered his § 1983 complaint to prison officials for mailing to the district court on June 8, 1994, fifty-three days after the statute of limitations had run.1

Discussion

1. The Houston Prison Mailbox Rule

In Houston, a prisoner delivered a notice of appeal from a district court's dismissal of his pro se habeas corpus petition to prison officials within the applicable filing limit. The notice of appeal was not filed with the court, however, until one day after the time limit. The Supreme Court held that for the purposes of Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1), a pro se prisoner's notice of appeal is deemed "filed" at the moment of delivery to prison authorities for forwarding to the district court.2 Houston, 487 U.S. at 270. Our court has since extended the so-called "prison mailbox" rule of Houston to a number of other federal filing requirements. See Dory v. Ryan, 999 F.2d 679, 682 (2d Cir. 1993) (civil complaints), modified on other grounds, 25 F.3d 81 (2d Cir. 1994); Tapia-Ortiz v. Doe, 171 F.3d 150, 152 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam) (administrative complaints); Noble v. Kelly, 246 F.3d 93, 97 (2d Cir. 2001) (habeas petitions).

Walker argues that Houston requires that the delay between his record request and his receipt of the records not apply against the three-year statute of limitations. Alternatively, he argues that "Houston-like" principles of equitable tolling entitle him to relief from the statute of limitations.

In order to accept Walker's argument as to the scope of the prison mailbox rule, we would have to extend Houston and its

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progeny in...

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