662 F.3d 745 (6th Cir. 2011), 09-3372, Hall v. Warden, Lebanon Correctional Inst.

Docket Nº:09-3372.
Citation:662 F.3d 745
Opinion Judge:RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Antwan J. HALL, Petitioner-Appellant, v. WARDEN, LEBANON CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, Respondent-Appellee.
Attorney:Brian D. Ginsberg, Covington & Burling LLP, New York, New York, for Appellant. Gene D. Park, Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee. Brian D. Ginsberg, Covington & Burling LLP, New York, New York, for Appellant. Gene D. Park, Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Columbu...
Judge Panel:Before: GILMAN and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges; LUDINGTON, District Judge.[*]
Case Date:November 30, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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662 F.3d 745 (6th Cir. 2011)

Antwan J. HALL, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

WARDEN, LEBANON CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 09-3372.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

November 30, 2011

Argued: Oct. 13, 2011.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ARGUED:

Brian D. Ginsberg, Covington & Burling LLP, New York, New York, for Appellant.

Gene D. Park, Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Brian D. Ginsberg, Covington & Burling LLP, New York, New York, for Appellant.

Gene D. Park, Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: GILMAN and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges; LUDINGTON, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

Antwan Hall was convicted of several felony offenses in an Ohio state court and sentenced to a maximum term of 27 years in prison. After exhausting his direct appeals and his petition for postconviction relief in the state courts, Hall filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court. He submitted the petition five days after the one-year statute of limitations for filing a habeas petition had run. The district court dismissed Hall's petition as time-barred, and further denied his request for a certificate of appealability (COA). This court subsequently granted Hall a COA on his claim that his lack of access to the trial transcript justified equitably tolling the limitations period. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

The outcome of this appeal turns on the precise timing and nature of the events that took place in the aftermath of Hall's convictions. Those events are as follows:

Following Hall's conviction in an Ohio trial court on one count of aggravated robbery, two counts of rape, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of felonious assault, he was sentenced on August 15, 2005 to serve a maximum term of 27 years in prison. His trial counsel withdrew shortly after the sentencing. The trial court then appointed Brian Harrison to represent Hall on direct appeal. Harrison received a copy of Hall's trial transcript in December 2005. Hall's timely appeal to the Ohio Court of Appeals was filed the following month.

Around this time, relations between Hall and Harrison apparently became frayed. Hall alleges that, in the period between January and July 2006, Harrison acted unprofessionally by ignoring Hall's numerous attempts to obtain a copy of the trial transcript and by filing Hall's opening appellate brief without consulting him first. On July 17, 2006, Hall sent a letter to the Ohio Court of Appeals detailing Harrison's allegedly unprofessional conduct and requesting a copy of the appellate brief. Hall received a copy of the brief not long after sending the letter.

The Ohio Court of Appeals denied Hall's appeal on August 15, 2006. Shortly thereafter, Harrison withdrew as counsel. But

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rather than turn over to Hall all documents related to the case— including the trial transcript, which Hall had still not seen— Harrison kept the documents. Hall was now forced to proceed pro se. He thus had to rely on the limited legal resources available to him in prison and to work under the constraints of the prison's policy that restricts inmates to no more than one law-library visit per week. These hurdles proved too high: Hall missed the September 29, 2006 deadline to timely appeal his convictions to the Ohio Supreme Court. The one-year statute of limitations for filing his habeas petition in federal court therefore started to run the next day, on September 30, 2006.

Four days after the limitations period began to run, Hall submitted his motion for a delayed appeal to the mailroom at the Lebanon Correctional Institution, the prison where he was incarcerated, for mailing to the Ohio Supreme Court. Although the motion was signed and notarized on October 4, 2006, and its certificate of service bears that date, the motion was not stamped as filed by the Ohio Supreme Court Clerk's Office until November 27, 2006. The reason for this nearly two-month delay is not apparent from the record. But whatever the reason, the limitations period was tolled on November 27, 2006, with approximately 10 months left on the habeas clock.

The limitations period remained tolled for several months while the Ohio Supreme Court considered and eventually denied Hall's motion for a delayed appeal. Hall then timely filed a motion for reconsideration. On March 14, 2007, when the Ohio Supreme Court denied Hall's motion for reconsideration, the limitations period began to run again. It continued running until January 16, 2008, on which date it expired. During that time, Hall filed a motion with the Ohio Court of Appeals to reopen his direct appeal, which that court denied on August 9, 2007. But the motion to reopen did not toll the limitations period because it was untimely filed and Hall failed to show good cause for the delayed filing. Hall did not file his habeas petition by the January 16, 2008 deadline.

Instead, on January 21, 2008— five days after the statute of limitations had expired— Hall signed and dated a pro se habeas petition, asserting insufficiency of the evidence and a Miranda violation as grounds for relief. He delivered the petition to the prison mailroom on that date. It was filed on February 1, 2008 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Hall had still not received a copy of his trial transcript.

Arguing that the petition was time-barred, the state of Ohio filed a motion to dismiss. The district court referred the petition and the State's motion to dismiss to a magistrate judge. On September 24, 2008, the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (R & R) concluding that Hall's petition was presumptively untimely because, under the federal prison-mailbox rule, the petition was deemed filed five days after the statute of limitations had run. Then, turning to the question whether equitable tolling was applicable, the magistrate judge determined that Hall had not been diligent in pursuing his habeas petition, notwithstanding his lack of access to his trial transcript, and therefore was not entitled to equitable tolling. The magistrate judge thus recommended that the district court grant the State's motion to dismiss and deny Hall's request for a COA.

Hall objected to the R & R on several grounds. As relevant here, he offered three reasons why he had missed the one-year filing deadline: (1) his pro se status, (2) his limited access to the prison law library, and (3) Harrison's failure to provide

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him with a copy of the trial transcript. The district court, in its March 25, 2009 order, analyzed these reasons under the rubric of equitable tolling and determined that they were inadequate to overcome Hall's failure to file on time. It therefore declined to grant Hall equitable tolling, adopted the R & R, and dismissed his petition as untimely. The court also declined to issue a COA.

Hall then requested a COA from this court, limited to the question whether his lack of access to his trial transcript entitles him to equitable tolling. His request was granted on October 7, 2009, and this appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. AEDPA's one-year statute of limitations

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) provides that a " 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). This limitations period starts to run from the latest of four circumstances. Id. The circumstance applicable to this case is " the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review." Id. § 2244(d)(1)(A). AEDPA further provides that the limitations period is tolled during the pendency of a " properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review." Id. § 2244(d)(2).

Hall concedes that his habeas petition was not deemed filed until five days after AEDPA's limitations period had presumptively expired. His petition is thus time-barred unless Hall is entitled to equitable tolling. " The dismissal of a habeas petition by the district court as barred by [AEDPA's] statute of limitations is reviewed de novo." Cook v. Stegall, 295 F.3d 517, 519 (6th Cir.2002).

B. Equitable-tolling standard for habeas petitioners

AEDPA's limitations period is subject to equitable tolling, see Holland v. Florida, __ U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 2549, 2560, 177 L.Ed.2d 130 (2010), a doctrine that " allows courts to toll a statute of limitations when a litigant's failure to meet a legally-mandated deadline unavoidably arose from circumstances beyond that litigant's control." Robertson v. Simpson, 624 F.3d 781, 783 (6th Cir.2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). But courts grant equitable tolling " sparingly." Id. at 784. A habeas petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling only if two requirements are met. First, the petitioner must establish " that he has been pursuing his rights diligently." Holland, 130 S.Ct. at 2562 (internal quotation marks omitted). And second, the petitioner must show " that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

We note at the outset that this two-part test marks a departure, at least in form, from this circuit's previous approach in determining whether a habeas petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling. Prior to Holland, this court considered the following five...

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