544 U.S. 408 (2005), 03-9627, Pace v. DiGuglielmo

Docket NºNo. 03-9627
Citation544 U.S. 408, 125 S.Ct. 1807, 161 L.Ed.2d 669, 73 U.S.L.W. 4304
Party NameJOHN A. PACE, PETITIONER v. DAVID DIGUGLIELMO, SUPERINTENDENT, STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATERFORD, ET AL.
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 408

544 U.S. 408 (2005)

125 S.Ct. 1807, 161 L.Ed.2d 669, 73 U.S.L.W. 4304

JOHN A. PACE, PETITIONER

v.

DAVID DIGUGLIELMO, SUPERINTENDENT, STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATERFORD, ET AL.

No. 03-9627

United States Supreme Court

April 27, 2005

Argued February 28, 2005.

Rehearing Denied June 20, 2005. See 545 U.S. 1135, 125 S.Ct. 2931.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

[125 S.Ct. 1808] Syllabus [*]

After the Pennsylvania Superior Court found petitioner's state postconviction petition untimely under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) and the State Supreme Court denied review, petitioner sought federal habeas. The District Court refused to dismiss the petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996's (AEDPA) statute of limitations, finding that petitioner was entitled to both statutory and equitable tolling while his PCRA petition was pending even though that petition was untimely under state law. Reversing, the Third Circuit held, with regard to statutory tolling, that an untimely PCRA petition is not "a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review" that tolls AEDPA's limitations period under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2), and that [125 S.Ct. 1809] there were no extraordinary circumstances justifying equitable tolling.

Held:

Because petitioner filed his federal habeas petition beyond the deadline and is not entitled to statutory or equitable tolling for any of that time period, his federal petition is barred by AEDPA's statute of limitations. Pp. 1811-1815.

(a) Petitioner is not entitled to statutory tolling. When this Court held in Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U.S. 4, 8, 11, 121 S.Ct. 361, 148 L.Ed.2d 213, that time limits on postconviction petitions are "condition[s] to filing," such that an untimely petition would not be deemed "properly filed," it reserved the question "whether the existence of certain exceptions to a timely filing requirement can prevent a late application from being considered improperly filed," id., at 8, n. 2, 121 S.Ct. 361. There are no grounds for treating the two differently. Under the common understanding of "properly filed" that guided the Artuz Court, a petition filed after a time limit, which does not fit within any exceptions to that limit, is no more "properly filed" than a petition filed after a time limit permitting no exception. This commonsense reading is confirmed by the purpose of AEDPA's statute of limitations and is supported by Carey v. Saffold, 536 U.S. 214, 122 S.Ct. 2134, 153 L.Ed.2d 260. Petitioner's counterarguments--that "condition[s] to filing" are merely those conditions necessary to get a clerk to accept the petition, not conditions requiring judicial consideration; that a condition that must be applied on

Page 409

a claim-by-claim basis cannot be a "condition to filing"; and that this Court's interpretation is unfair to petitioners who try in good faith to exhaust their state remedies--are rejected. Artuz does not require a different result. There is an obvious distinction between time limits, which go to the very initiation of a petition and a court' s ability to consider that petition, and the type of rule-of-decision procedural bars at issue in Artuz, which go to the ability to obtain relief. Pp. 1811-1814.

(b) Because petitioner waited for years after his claims became available to file his PCRA petition and five more months once his PCRA proceedings became final before seeking relief in federal court, he has not established that he pursued his claims diligently. Thus, assuming equitable tolling applies here, he is not entitled to equitable tolling. See, e.g.,

Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96, 111 S.Ct. 453, 112 L.Ed.2d 435. Pp. 1814-1815.

71 Fed.Appx. 127, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 1815.

COUNSEL

Billy H. Nolas, Counsel of Record, David W. Wycoff, Assistant Federal Defenders, Maureen Kearney Rowley, Chief Federal Defender, Defender Association of Philadelphia, Federal Court Division, Philadelphia, PA, Counsel for Petitioner, John A. Pace.

Ronald Eisenberg, Deputy District Attorney, Counsel of Record, Thomas W. Dolgenos, Chief, Federal Litigation, John W. Goldsborough, Assistant District Attorney, Arnold H. Gordon, First Asst. District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, District Attorney, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Philadelphia, PA, for Respondent. [125 S.Ct. 1810]

OPINION

REHNQUIST, Chief Justice.

Page 410

The federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) establishes a 1-year statute of limitations for filing a federal habeas corpus petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). That limitations period is tolled, however, while "a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending." § 2244(d)(2). This case requires us to decide whether a state postconviction petition rejected by the state court as untimely nonetheless is "properly filed" within the meaning of § 2244(d)(2). We conclude that it is not, and hold that petitioner John Pace's federal petition is time barred.

In February 1986, petitioner pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime in a Pennsylvania state court. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Petitioner did not file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and he did not file a direct appeal. In August 1986, he filed a petition under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA), 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 9541 et seq. (1988) (amended and renamed by Act No. 1988-47, §§ 3, 6, 1988 Pa. Laws pp. 337-342). These proceedings concluded in September 1992, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied petitioner's untimely request for discretionary review.

Over four years later, on November 27, 1996, petitioner filed another state postconviction petition, this time under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 9541 et seq. (1998). The PCRA had replaced the PCHA in 1988 and was amended in 1995 to include, for the first time, a statute of limitations for state postconviction Page 411

petitions, with three exceptions. 1 Although petitioner's PCRA petition was filed after the date upon which the new time limits became effective, the petition said nothing about timeliness.

After reviewing petitioner's PCRA petition, appointed counsel submitted a "no-merit" letter. On July 23, 1997, the Court of Common Pleas dismissed the petition, without calling for a response from the Commonwealth. The court noted that petitioner's claims previously had been litigated and were meritless. Petitioner appealed. On May 6, 1998, the Commonwealth filed a brief in response, asserting that petitioner's PCRA petition was untimely under the PCRA's time bar, § 9545(b), and citing as support Commonwealth v. Alcorn, 703 A.2d 1054 (Pa.Super.1997). On May 28, 1998, petitioner responded by arguing that the time limit was inapplicable to him. The Superior Court dismissed his petition as untimely on December 3, 1998. The Superior Court reasoned that petitioner's PCRA petition did not come within the statutory [125 S.Ct. 1811] note following § 9545(b), see ibid., and that petitioner had "neither alleged nor proven" that he fell within any statutory exception, see §§ 9545(b)(1)(i)-(iii). App. 316-317. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied review on July 29, 1999. Id., at 372.

On December 24, 1999, petitioner filed a federal habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the District Court for the Page 412

Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of the petition under AEDPA's statute of limitations, § 2244(d)(1), but the District Court rejected that recommendation, App. 447-466 (June 7, 2001, memorandum and order), 503-533 (Mar. 29, 2002, memorandum and order). The District Court recognized that, without tolling, petitioner's petition was time barred. 2 But it held that petitioner was entitled to both statutory and equitable tolling for the time during which his PCRA petition was pending--November 27, 1996 to July 29, 1999. Beginning with statutory tolling, the District Court held that, even though the state court rejected his PCRA petition as untimely, that did not prevent the petition from being "properly filed" within the meaning of § 2244(d)(2). It reasoned that because the PCRA set up judicially reviewable exceptions to the time limit, the PCRA time limit was not a "condition to filing" but a "condition to obtaining relief" as we described those distinct concepts in Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U.S. 4, 11, 121 S.Ct. 361, 148 L.Ed.2d 213 (2000). The District Court alternatively found extraordinary circumstances justifying equitable tolling.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed. Pace v. Vaughn, 71 Fed.Appx. 127 (C.A.3 2003) (not precedential). With regard to statutory tolling, it relied on a line of Third Circuit cases to conclude that the PCRA time limit constitutes a "condition to filing" and that, when a state court deems a petition untimely, it is not "properly filed." Id., at 128. With regard to equitable tolling, it held that there were not extraordinary circumstances justifying that remedy. Id., at 129. Because Circuits have divided over whether a state postconviction petition that the state court Page 413

has rejected as untimely nonetheless may be "properly filed," we granted certiorari. 3 542 U.S. 965, 125 S.Ct. 26, 159 L.Ed.2d 856 (2004). We now affirm.

In Artuz v. Bennett, supra, we held that time limits on postconviction petitions are "condition[s] to filing," such that an untimely petition would not be deemed "properly filed."...

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