Chavez v. Sec'y Fla. Dep't of Corr., No. 10–13840.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore CARNES, WILSON and MARTIN, Circuit Judges.
Citation23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 154,647 F.3d 1057
PartiesJuan Carlos CHAVEZ, Petitioner–Appellant,v.SECRETARY FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Attorney General of the State of Florida, Respondents–Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 10–13840.
Decision Date25 July 2011

647 F.3d 1057
23 Fla.
L. Weekly Fed. C 154

Juan Carlos CHAVEZ, Petitioner–Appellant,
v.
SECRETARY FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Attorney General of the State of Florida, Respondents–Appellees.

No. 10–13840.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

July 25, 2011.


[647 F.3d 1058]

Robert Anthony Norgard (Court–Appointed), Norgard & Norgard, Bartow, FL, for Petitioner–Appellant.Scott Andrew Browne, Tampa, FL, for Respondents–Appellees.Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.Before CARNES, WILSON and MARTIN, Circuit Judges.CARNES, Circuit Judge:

Just as time waits for no one, there are limits on how long our legal system will wait for anyone to bring a claim. Those limits are expressed in and enforced by statutes of limitations and doctrines of repose. The statute of limitations involved in this case is the one that requires a prisoner seeking federal habeas corpus relief to file the petition within one year after the conclusion of his direct appeal. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). The statute itself provides that the time spent litigating a properly filed state collateral attack does not count against the petitioner, see id. § 2244(d)(2), and the Supreme Court has decided that in extraordinary circumstances, and when the petitioner has shown reasonable diligence, equitable tolling may apply to prevent other time from counting. This appeal is about that doctrine and whether it applies under the circumstances of this case.

I.

Juan Carlos Chavez was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, sadistic

[647 F.3d 1059]

sexual battery, and murder of a nine-year-old child. See Chavez v. State, 832 So.2d 730, 736–41 (Fla.2002). His convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, see id., and the Supreme Court denied certiorari in June of 2003. Chavez filed a motion for post-conviction relief in state court in May of 2005, and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of that motion in June of 2009. See Chavez v. State, 12 So.3d 199 (Fla.2009). In February 2010 Chavez filed in federal court a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus. But he had a serious problem: his petition was not filed within the one-year period specified in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), the statute of limitations provision of the Anti–Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Recognizing that problem, in his belated federal habeas petition Chavez alleged facts that he contended entitled him to enough equitable tolling to bring its filing within the statute of limitations. His petition requested an evidentiary hearing so that he could prove those factual allegations. The district court denied the request for an evidentiary hearing and dismissed the petition on statute of limitations grounds, reasoning that even if all of the allegations in the petition were true, Chavez still would not be entitled to enough equitable tolling to bring the filing within the one-year limitations period. This is his appeal of that dismissal.

II.

Chavez filed his 86-page petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on February 9, 2010. He spent much of the first twenty pages of that petition spelling out his position that he was entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. He alleged various facts about his post-conviction counsel and what had occurred between the affirmance of his convictions and sentence on direct appeal in 2002 and the issuance of the mandate for the Florida Supreme Court's decision in 2009 affirming the trial court's denial of his motion for post-conviction relief. After alleging those facts and contending that they justified equitable tolling, Chavez requested an evidentiary hearing in order “to be given the opportunity to establish his entitlement” to the tolling he sought.

The district court issued an order requiring the State of Florida to file a memorandum of fact and law showing cause why the petition should not be granted. The court directed that the memorandum:

be accompanied by a comprehensive appendix, which shall include copies of: 1) all relevant state trial and appellate court pleadings; 2) transcripts of the petitioner's trial or plea colloquy; 3) briefs filed on direct appeal; 4) motions seeking relief pursuant to Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.850, including transcripts of collateral evidentiary hearings, and briefs from any ensuing appeal; 5) state habeas corpus applications and briefs from any ensuing appeal; [and] 6) records of any other state collateral proceedings that may be relevant to the federal issues....

In compliance, the State filed a 130-page response. Before addressing the merits of Chavez's § 2254 petition, the State argued that the petition had not been timely filed and that Chavez was not entitled to equitable tolling. With respect to Chavez's request for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of equitable tolling, the State argued that because the allegations of his petition were “insufficient as a matter of law to warrant equitable tolling,” he was not entitled to a hearing on the issue. The State also submitted to the district court a voluminous record, consisting of nine boxes

[647 F.3d 1060]

that contained well over 25,000 pages of documents.

The district court entered an order dismissing Chavez's habeas petition on statute of limitations grounds, agreeing with the State that the petition was not timely filed and rejecting Chavez's argument that he had pleaded enough facts to state a viable claim to equitable tolling. The order explained that Chavez was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the issue because even if everything he alleged in his petition were true, those allegations would not entitle him to equitable tolling of enough time to make his petition timely. The district court did, however, grant a certificate of appealability so that this Court could consider “whether [Chavez] demonstrated that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the one-year limitations period imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).”

III.

We review the district court's denial of equitable tolling de novo, Drew v. Dep't of Corr., 297 F.3d 1278, 1283 (11th Cir.2002), and we review its denial of an evidentiary hearing only for an abuse of discretion, id. at 1292. In the present case those two standards of review blend together into this: if we agree with the district court that the facts alleged in the habeas petition are not enough to make Chavez's petition timely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d), then it was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to deny him an evidentiary hearing, and the court did not err by dismissing his petition.

IV.

In a habeas corpus proceeding “[t]he burden is on the petitioner ... to establish the need for an evidentiary hearing.” Birt v. Montgomery, 725 F.2d 587, 591 (11th Cir.1984) (en banc); see also Dickson v. Wainwright, 683 F.2d 348, 351 (11th Cir.1982) (“We emphasize that the burden is on the petitioner in a habeas corpus proceeding to allege sufficient facts to support the grant of an evidentiary hearing and that this court will not blindly accept speculative and inconcrete claims as the basis upon which a hearing will be ordered.” (quotation marks omitted)).

“In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider whether such a hearing could enable an applicant to prove the petition's factual allegations, which, if true, would entitle the applicant to federal habeas relief.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474, 127 S.Ct. 1933, 1940, 167 L.Ed.2d 836 (2007). That means that if a habeas petition does not allege enough specific facts that, if they were true, would warrant relief, the petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Allen v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 611 F.3d 740, 763 (11th Cir.2010) (“Having alleged no specific facts that, if true, would entitle him to federal habeas relief, Allen is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing.”); Porter v. Wainwright, 805 F.2d 930, 933 (11th Cir.1986) (“While the district court is required to conduct an evidentiary hearing in certain circumstances, such a hearing is not required unless the petitioner alleges facts which, if proved, would entitle him to federal habeas relief.”).1

[647 F.3d 1061]

The allegations must be factual and specific, not conclusory. Conclusory allegations are simply not enough to warrant a hearing. San Martin v. McNeil, 633 F.3d 1257, 1271 (11th Cir.2011) (“ ‘An evidentiary hearing may be necessary where the material facts are in dispute, but a petitioner is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing when his claims are merely conclusory allegations unsupported by specifics.’ ”) (quoting Pugh v. Smith, 465 F.3d 1295, 1300 (11th Cir.2006)); see also Boyd v. Allen, 592 F.3d 1274, 1306–07 (11th Cir.2010) (“On this scant record, we cannot say that Boyd's allegations amount to anything more than the merely conclusory, nor that the district court has abused its considerable discretion in failing to hold a hearing on his claim.” (citations omitted)).

Of course, all of these principles of law would mean nothing if district courts were required to mine the record, prospecting for facts that the habeas petitioner overlooked and could have, but did not, bring to the surface in his petition. Making district courts dig through volumes of documents and transcripts would shift the burden of sifting from petitioners to the courts. With a typically heavy caseload and always limited resources, a district court cannot be expected to do a petitioner's work for him. Cf. Adler v. Duval Cnty. Sch. Bd., 112 F.3d 1475, 1481 n. 12 (11th Cir.1997) (noting in a civil case that, absent plain error, “it is not our place as an appellate court to second guess the litigants before us and grant them relief ... based on facts they did not relate.”); Johnson v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 126 F.3d 1372, 1373 (11th Cir.1997) (“[W]e are not obligated to cull the record ourselves in search of facts not included in the statements...

To continue reading

Request your trial
658 practice notes
  • Weatherspoon v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-00075-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • September 14, 2021
    ...“district court judges are not required to ferret out delectable facts buried in a massive record, ” Chavez v. Sec'y Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1061 (11th Cir. 2011) (28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas proceedings), and “ ‘[t]here is no burden upon the district court to distill every potentia......
  • Lewis v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:17-cv-468-J-34JBT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • May 28, 2020
    ...the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). "In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, aPage 4 federal court must consider whether such a hearing could ena......
  • Freeman v. Dunn, CASE NO. 2:06-CV-122-WKW [WO]
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • July 2, 2018
    ...will be ordered.") (quotingPage 256 Dickson v. Wainwright, 683 F.2d 348, 351 (11th Cir. 1982)); Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011) (the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for an evidentiary hearing), cert. denied, 565 U. S. 1120 (2012).......
  • Dowe v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:16-cv-162-J-34PDB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • November 19, 2018
    ...the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). "In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider whether such a hearing could enable an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
650 cases
  • Weatherspoon v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-00075-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • September 14, 2021
    ...“district court judges are not required to ferret out delectable facts buried in a massive record, ” Chavez v. Sec'y Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1061 (11th Cir. 2011) (28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas proceedings), and “ ‘[t]here is no burden upon the district court to distill every potentia......
  • Lewis v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:17-cv-468-J-34JBT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • May 28, 2020
    ...the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). "In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, aPage 4 federal court must consider whether such a hearing could ena......
  • Freeman v. Dunn, CASE NO. 2:06-CV-122-WKW [WO]
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • July 2, 2018
    ...will be ordered.") (quotingPage 256 Dickson v. Wainwright, 683 F.2d 348, 351 (11th Cir. 1982)); Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011) (the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for an evidentiary hearing), cert. denied, 565 U. S. 1120 (2012).......
  • Dowe v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:16-cv-162-J-34PDB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • November 19, 2018
    ...the burden is on the petitioner to establish the need for a federal evidentiary hearing. See Chavez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 647 F.3d 1057, 1060 (11th Cir. 2011). "In deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider whether such a hearing could enable an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT