Been taking a break from blogging for awhile. Posts are probably going to continue to be pretty sporadic for the foreseeable future.
But a decision today from the Second Circuit in Harper v. Ercole, 10-178-pr, deserves a timely post. The Second Circuit vacated a district court dismissal of a habeas petition as untimely under the statute of limitations because (1) the petitioner had established that the limitations period should have been equitably tolled during his three-month hospitalization, and, (2) once that time is tolled, he filed his petitioner within the untolled time left in the one-year statute of limitations. It's kind of a tricky holding to explain, so I'll get to it in a second. Let's start with the details:
Harper v. Ercole, 10-0178-pr
- Vacating Dismissal of Petition as Untimely
- Argued: 3/21/11; Decided: 7/26/11 Opinion by Raggi
- Panel: McLaughlin, Calabresi, Raggi
- Lower Ct. Info: 08-CV-3442, 2009 WL 4893196 (EDNY Dec. 16, 2009) (ENV) (LB)
- In Circuit: Circuit Court COA
- Issue: whether petitioner acted with reasonable diligence in filing his petition 65 days after his release from the hospital after the deadline had passed for timely filing
To help understand the holding, we need to start with the facts.
288 days into Harper's 365 day period to file a habeas petition, Harper went into the hospital for 98 days. He filed his petition 65 days after he was released. In real time, that is beyond the 365 days. But if the 98 days are tolled, then it was within the 365 days he had to file the petition. The DJ concluded that Harper did not exercise reasonable diligence after he was released from the hospital.
The Second Circuit rejected that reasonable diligence analysis. Here's what the court held:
We now clarify that a litigant who seeks equitable tolling based on extraordinary circumstances and who establishes causation is required to show reasonable diligence in pursuing his claim throughout the period he seeks to have tolled. Once tolling ends and the limitations clock resumes, a § 2254 petition is timely as long as it is filed before the total untolled time exceeds one year.
Applying that holding to the case, the court concludes the following:
1. Harper qualifies for equitable tolling of AEDPA’s statute of limitations for the period from February 27, 2008, to June 3, 2008, because the undisputed record demonstrates that
(a) his hospitalization during that time constituted extraordinary circumstances causing him to miss the otherwise applicable May 14, 2008 deadline for filing a § 2254 petition; and
(b) Harper showed reasonable diligence in pursuing his claim throughout his
2. The timeliness of Harper’s August 17, 2008 filing does not depend on him showing further diligence in the time between the end of the tolling period and that filing date, but rather on that filing being within one year of the total untolled time after Harper’s conviction became final; and
3. Because seventy-eight days remained on the limitations period when equity
suspended the statute on February 27, 2008, Harper’s August 17, 2008 filing, sixty-five days after tolling ended, was timely.
Seems like the fair and logical result to me. Good win for petitioner.