Ex parte Williams

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtKENNEDY; HORNSBY
Citation651 So.2d 569
PartiesEx parte James Michael WILLIAMS. 1901143.
Decision Date17 July 1992

Page 569

651 So.2d 569
Ex parte James Michael WILLIAMS.
1901143.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
July 17, 1992.

Page 570

James Michael Williams, pro se.

James H. Evans, Atty. Gen., and Cecil G. Brendle, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

KENNEDY, Justice.

The petitioner, James Michael Williams, seeks review of a judgment of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirming the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief.

Williams was convicted of first degree rape and second degree kidnapping. He was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment for the rape and 8 years' imprisonment for the kidnapping, those sentences to run concurrently.

Williams appealed his convictions to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed them. Williams v. State, 535 So.2d 225 (Ala.Crim.App.1988). Thereafter, Williams filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 20, Ala.R.Cr.P.Temp., which was applicable when he made his motion. The trial court dismissed the petition, and Williams appealed that dismissal to the Court of Criminal Appeals. That court affirmed, without opinion.

Williams applied for a rehearing, which was denied on April 11, 1991. Williams then prepared a petition for writ of certiorari, which was received by this Court on April 29, 1991, four days after the deadline for filing. This petition had been mailed with the United States Postal Service, but not by certified, express, or registered mail. Pursuant to Rule 25, A.R.App.P., "[p]apers required or permitted to be filed in an appellate court" must be received within the time period set by law even if mailed, except that where the papers are mailed by United States express, certified, or registered mail, they are deemed to have been filed on the day of mailing. Thus, papers so mailed are timely so long as they are mailed within the time prescribed for filing; papers not mailed by United States express, certified, or registered mail are deemed filed upon receipt. Ala.R.App.P. 25.

Williams states that he tendered his petition to prison officials to be mailed within the time prescribed by law for filing. Also, Williams has filed with this Court two statements from other persons to this effect.

Williams does not have access to a United States post office. Prison authorities will place items in the mail for him, but he has no guarantee as to when a paper will actually be mailed, and prison officials are not required to provide express, certified, or registered mail service for him. Finally, it is obvious that Williams could not hand deliver his petition.

Based on these considerations and the analysis to follow, we determined that Williams's petition for the writ of certiorari was timely filed and we granted the petition.

We are not persuaded that Rule 25 is to be rigidly interpreted in the situation of a pro se prisoner who, by the circumstances of his incarceration, has a particular lack of control over papers to be mailed to the clerk of this Court. The Committee Comments to Ala.R.App.P. 1, which defines the scope of our appellate rules, state that "it is the policy of these rules to disregard technicality and form in order that a just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every appellate proceeding on its merits may be obtained." To rigidly interpret Rule 25 in this instance would be unjust and, therefore, would not foster this policy.

Confronted with a similar situation, the United States Supreme Court in Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 108 S.Ct. 2379, 101 L.Ed.2d 245 (1988), determined that a notice of appeal from a pro se prisoner must be deemed "filed" under the federal appellate rules when the notice is properly placed in the hands of prison authorities. The Court reasoned:

"The situation of prisoners seeking to appeal without the aid of counsel is unique. Such prisoners cannot take the steps other litigants can take to monitor the processing of their notices of appeal and to ensure that the court clerk receives and stamps

Page 571

their notices of appeal before the ... deadline. Unlike other litigants, pro se prisoners cannot personally travel to the courthouse to see that the notice is stamped 'filed' or to establish the date on which the court received the notice. Other litigants may choose to entrust their appeals to the vagaries of the mail and the clerk's process for stamping incoming papers, but only the pro se prisoner is forced to do so by his situation. And if other litigants do choose to use the mail, they can at least place the notice directly into the hands of the United States Postal Service ... and they can follow its progress by calling the court to determine whether the notice has been received and stamped, knowing that if the mail goes awry they can personally deliver notice at the last moment or that their monitoring will provide them with evidence to demonstrate either excusable neglect or that the notice was not stamped on the date the court received it. Pro se...

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31 practice notes
  • Saunders v. Stewart, CIVIL ACTION No. 10-00439-KD-C
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • February 1, 2019
    ...(Jordan, J., concurring)). 8. Under Alabama law, the facts alleged in the habeas petition are assumed to be true. See Ex Parte Williams, 651 So. 2d 569, 572 (Ala. 1992). 9. For simplicity's sake, each ground Saunders raised is addressed in the same order his petition addressed them. 10. The......
  • Silverbrand v. County of Los Angeles, S143929.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 23, 2009
    ...(See, e.g., Ala. Rules. App.Proc., rule 4(c) ["notice of appeal in either a civil or a criminal case"] and Ex parte Williams (Ala.1992) 651 So.2d 569, 570-571 [all "papers required or permitted to be filed in an appellate court" including petition for writ of certiorari]; State v. Goracke (......
  • Wilson v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 31, 2001
    ...is a post-conviction petition a substitute for an appeal, `nor does it afford one an additional, de facto, appeal.' Ex parte Williams, 651 So.2d 569, 572 (Ala.), on remand, 651 So.2d 573 (Ala.Cr.App.), after remand, 659 So.2d 972 (Ala.Cr.App. 1994)." Ex parte Land, 775 So.2d 840 (Ala.Crim.A......
  • Martin v. Dep't of Corr., Docket: Kno-17-51
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • July 24, 2018
    ...of the judgment or order appealed from ....Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1) (1992) (amended 1993).6 These states are Alabama, Ex parte Williams , 651 So.2d 569 (Ala. 1992) ; Arizona, Mayer v. State , 184 Ariz. 242, 908 P.2d 56 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1995) ; California, In re Jordan , 4 Cal.4th 116, 13 Cal.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • Silverbrand v. County of Los Angeles, No. S143929.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 23, 2009
    ...(See, e.g., Ala. Rules. App.Proc., rule 4(c) ["notice of appeal in either a civil or a criminal case"] and Ex parte Williams (Ala.1992) 651 So.2d 569, 570-571 [all "papers required or permitted to be filed in an appellate court" including petition for writ of certiorari]; State v. Goracke (......
  • Martin v. Dep't of Corr., Docket: Kno-17-51
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • July 24, 2018
    ...of the judgment or order appealed from ....Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1) (1992) (amended 1993).6 These states are Alabama, Ex parte Williams , 651 So.2d 569 (Ala. 1992) ; Arizona, Mayer v. State , 184 Ariz. 242, 908 P.2d 56 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1995) ; California, In re Jordan , 4 Cal.4th 116, 13 Cal.......
  • Saunders v. Stewart, CIVIL ACTION No. 10-00439-KD-C
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • February 1, 2019
    ...(Jordan, J., concurring)). 8. Under Alabama law, the facts alleged in the habeas petition are assumed to be true. See Ex Parte Williams, 651 So. 2d 569, 572 (Ala. 1992). 9. For simplicity's sake, each ground Saunders raised is addressed in the same order his petition addressed them. 10. The......
  • Wilson v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 31, 2001
    ...is a post-conviction petition a substitute for an appeal, `nor does it afford one an additional, de facto, appeal.' Ex parte Williams, 651 So.2d 569, 572 (Ala.), on remand, 651 So.2d 573 (Ala.Cr.App.), after remand, 659 So.2d 972 (Ala.Cr.App. 1994)." Ex parte Land, 775 So.2d 840 (Ala.Crim.A......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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