Oral argument: Nov. 4, 2008
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit (May 25, 2007)
CERTIORARI, HABEAS CORPUS, COMITY, FINALITY, DIRECT REVIEW, SIXTH AMENDMENT, REINSTATED APPEAL, ineffective assistance of counsel, statute of limitations, AEDPA
Carlos Jimenez was convicted of burglary and, due to a prior felony, received an enhanced sentence of forty-three years in prison. Jimenez appealed to the Texas Third Court of Appeals, but through no fault of his own, was unaware that his appeal was denied until after the statute of limitations expired for him to appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In order to remedy this, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Jimenez a reinstated appeal, which essentially tolled the statute of limitations for purposes of direct review in state court. After exhausting all state remedies, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied Jimenez’s federal petition for habeas corpus, stating that for purposes of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), “direct review” ended when he initially failed to timely appeal the decision of the Third Court of Appeals, not when his reinstated appeal was exhausted. The United States Supreme Court will decide whether the reinstated appeal tolled the statute of limitations until the completion of the reinstated direct review for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A).
Whether a Certificate of Appealability should have issued pursuant to Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 482, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 1604 (2000) on the question of whether pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244 (d)(1)(A) when through no fault of the petitioner, he was unable to obtain a direct review and the highest State Court granted relief to place him back to original position on direct review, should the 1-year limitation begin to run after he has completed that direct review resetting the 1- year limitations period?
When a court finds that a defendant lost his right of direct appeal because of a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, and accordingly reinstates his appeal, does the time to seek federal habeas review run from the conclusion of the reinstated proceedings?
Because the underlying cases are unpublished, the following facts are taken from the parties’ briefs. On November 12, 1991, Carlos Jimenez pleaded guilty in a Texas trial court to felony burglary and “true” to an enhanced sentence due to a prior felony conviction. Brief for the Petitioner, Carlos Jimenez at 5. The trial court deferred its judgment and put Jimenez on probation for five years. See id. Four years later, in 1995, the prosecutor moved to proceed with an adjudication of guilt, resulting in the trial court sentencing Jimenez to forty-three years’ confinement. See id.
Shortly thereafter, Jimenez’s assigned counsel, Duke Hooten, filed an appeal on Jimenez’s behalf. See Brief for Petitioner at 5. While that appeal was pending, Jimenez informed Hooten in writing that he had been transferred from Tom Green County Jail to a state prison, but Hooten did not respond. See id. Jimenez also inquired into the status of his appeal with the Texas Third Court of Appeals. See id. Because he believed that Jimenez lacked grounds for appeal, Hooten subsequently withdrew as Jimenez’s counsel and filed a brief with the court notifying it of his reasons for doing so pursuant to the rule in Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744 (1967). See id. at 5–6. He delivered a letter to Jimenez at the Tom Green County Jail notifying Jimenez of his withdrawal and of Jimenez’s right to file a pro se brief to appeal his conviction and sentence. See Brief for Petitioner at 5–6. Jimenez never received this letter because of his transfer to state prison several months earlier, and therefore, never filed a pro se appellate brief. See id. at 6.
On September 11, 1996, the Texas Third Court of Appeals dismissed Jimenez’s appeal and mailed its decision to Jimenez at the Tom Green County Jail. See Brief for Petitioner at 6. Again, Jimenez did not receive the court’s decision because he was in state prison. See id. Thus, Jimenez was not aware that October 11, 1996 was the deadline for him to seek further review from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. See id. Not until a year after the expiration did Jimenez learn, through a further inquiry, that the Third Court of Appeals had dismissed his appeal. See id.
In 2002, Jimenez filed a pro se habeas corpus petition in state court alleging that Hooten’s conduct effectively deprived Jimenez of his right to appeal. See Brief for the Respondent, Nathaniel Quarterman at 5. The court agreed, and as a result, on September 25, 2002, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Jimenez a reinstated appeal as a remedy, which essentially tolled (suspended the running of) the statute of limitations for the purpose of Jimenez’s right to appeal in the Texas courts. See id.Jimenez then went on to timely exhaust all available remedies of review on the state level. See id. at 5–6.
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), provides that a person in state custody has one year from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review” to petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A). So, when Jimenez filed a habeas corpus petition on July 19, 2005 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, again claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, he argued that the statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A) restarted with his reinstated appeal, and that therefore the state judgment was not “final” until January 2004, when his reinstated appeal expired. See Brief for Respondent at 8–9. The district court disagreed and held that his petition was untimely, reasoning that, for purposes of AEDPA, Jimenez’s reinstated appeal tolled the statute of limitations on the state level, but not on the federal level. See id. at 8–10; see Brief for Petitioner at 9–10. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit also denied Jimenez’s request to appeal. Id. at 10.
The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on March 17, 2008 on the question of whether reinstated review tolls the statute of limitations until completion of direct review. Jimenez v. Quarterman, Docket No. 07-6984.
Does a reinstated appeal at the state level, which is granted to remedy a past deprivation of a right to appeal, toll the statute of limitations at the federal level until the completion of direct review?
Jimenez argues that a reinstated appeal constitutes “direct review” for the purposes of the federal habeas statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), and that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the conclusion of his reinstated direct review. See Brief for Petitioner at 17. The State of Texas argues that for the purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), Jimenez’s “direct review” ended when the Texas Court of Appeals dismissed his original appeal and Jimenez failed to timely petition for review from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in this case, October 11, 1996. See Brief for Respondent at 16–17.
Habeas corpus provides state prisoners with the ability to petition for federal judicial review of their convictions. See Charles Doyle, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: A Summary. With over a million people in state prisons who could conceivably petition for habeas, some commentators late in the twentieth century were concerned that habeas could create a large strain on the federal court system. See id. They grounded this concern in the fact that prisoners essentially had nothing to lose by filing for habeas, and could only shorten the duration of their confinement by doing so, giving them “every incentive . . . to file perpetually.” Id.
Partially in response to this concern, Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed into law, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). See id. There were several purposes behind AEDPA’s enactment, including the creation of a statute of limitations on the filing of a federal habeas petition. See id. This was in line with the strong public policy goal of finality, which AEDPA achieved by reducing the previously almost limitless period of time prisoners had to petition for habeas to a one-year statute of limitations beginning to run from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A); see Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: A Summary.
There were two conflicting responses to the passage of AEDPA. Some opposed the introduction of a statute of limitations as being unjust to prisoners who, for various reasons, might need more than the allotted amount of time to petition for habeas. See Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: A Summary. These opponents provided three examples of situations in which prisoners would face injustice as a result of the statute of limitations: some prisoners only learn of their right to petition for habeas long after judgment; others, given the difficulty and time required to clearly define complex federal issues, find filing a habeas petition especially cumbersome; and still others are undereducated and impoverished prisoners who are forced to petition pro se and simply will not be as timely as professional lawyers. See id. Supporters of AEDPA responded that finality is better served by having a clear statute of limitations in order to help prevent stale claims. See id.
One amici in this case contends that it is necessary for a state-granted, reinstated appeal to toll the statute of limitations for the purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A) in order to remedy the ongoing history of indigent defendants being deprived of their Sixth Amendment rights in Texas. See Brief of Amicus Curiae Texas Fair Justice Defense Project and Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in Support of Petitioner at 3–5. They point out that there is a documented history of failure to create minimum qualifications for assigned counsel, that Texas spends less on indigent defense than most other states, and that there are often substantial delays in appointing counsel to indigents. See id. at 6, 8–9. As a result of this history, these amici argue that poor defendants in Texas are statistically more likely to be convicted and receive longer sentences than defendants with money. See id. at 6–7. They argue that Texas is attempting to remedy these problems by reinstating appeals that would otherwise be out of time, and that if the statute of limitations is not tolled through the conclusion of these reinstated reviews for the purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A), it would only “exacerbate the situation.” Id. at 27–28.
Quarterman answers that states have many different remedies available to address these problems, and that “reinstated review” is not always necessary. See Brief for Respondent at 38–39. Quarterman argues that rather than reopening the old case from the point of time the ineffective assistance of counsel occurred, states often simply grant new appeals. See id. at 39–40. Quarterman also points out that most out–of–time appeals due to ineffective assistance of counsel are collateral–review procedures, and thus do not function as part of the “direct review” process for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A). See id. at 41–42.
When and How Does Judgment Become Final?
Federal habeas petitions challenging state convictions must be filed within one year of the “date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). Jimenez argues that judgment is not final if the appeal has been reinstated because a reinstated appeal constitutes a continuation of direct review. See Brief for Petitioner at 12. He states further that the Fifth Circuit’s allegation that an appeal does not amount to direct review if it is “the product of state habeas review” has no basis in the text of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). See id. at 14–15. Jimenez points to the fact that the language of § 2244 is silent with regard to how review is obtained and is only concerned with whether the appeal itself is a continuation of the direct review process. See id. at 15. He contends that since states employ different means for deciding whether to reinstate appeals, Congress did not intend for the federal clock to be restarted in some states and not in others. See id. The Fifth Circuit’s construction of the statute, according to Jimenez, “diminishes, and sometimes eliminates entirely, the states’ ability to fully remedy the unconstitutional deficiencies in the counsel they appoint to represent indigent defendants.” Id. at 16. In Jimenez’s view, the proper construction of28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)purposely leaves a state free to determine its own direct review process so long as once that process has concluded, the defendant files his petition within a year. See id.
Quarterman disagrees that reinstated appeals restart the federal limitations period under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). See Brief for Respondent at 12. Instead, he argues that finality occurs and the federal limitations period begins when the court either grants or denies certiorari or the time for seeking that review expires. See id. at 18. Jimenez implies that even in cases where the time for seeking review has expired, the granting of a reinstated appeal will restart the running of the federal limitations period. See id. at 30–31. Quarterman argues that finality attaches and the federal limitations period begins as soon as either certiorari is decided or the time to seek review expires. See id. at 30–31. If this were not the case, Quarterman contends, state court convictions would never be final since a reinstated appeal could always be granted years later. See id. at 13.
Further, Quarterman emphasizes that Jimenez’s interpretation, under which states are free to determine their own direct review processes, would be contrary to congressional intent, which was to eliminate varying state law rules and determine finality by reference to a uniform federal rule. See Brief for Respondent at 44–45 (citing Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 530–531 (2003)). According to Quarterman, Jimenez’s approach, while purporting to ensure that similarly situated defendants in different states are treated the same, would actually have the opposite effect because it would result in different limitation periods for federal habeas petitions depending on the process that each state chooses to employ for reinstating appeals. See Brief for Respondent at 45.
What Is the Proper Remedy For Sixth Amendment Violations?
According to Jimenez, in cases where constitutionally deficient representation of counsel is the reason that the right of appeal has been lost, direct appeal is reinstated by both state and federal courts. See Brief for Petitioner at 4 (citing Rodriquez v. United States, 395 U.S. 327, 328 (1969)). He contends that when the Sixth Amendment right is violated, “the only constitutionally adequate remedy” is one that places the defendant “in the position they would have occupied in the absence of the violation.” Brief for Petitioner at 22 (quoting United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 547 (1996)). In this case, according to Jimenez, in order to place him in the position he would have occupied absent the violation, his right to file an appeal must be reinstated and the federal period of limitations restarted. See id.
Quarterman contends that in order to remedy constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel, most state procedures do not reinstate a prior appeal but instead provide a broad array of remedies. See Brief for Respondent at 37. Further, he points out that the majority of cases cited by Jimenez in support of his argument are really cases where the court granted a new appeal, not a reinstated one. See id. at 39. Quarterman also shows that 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)actually provides for instances where claims could not be timely asserted “because of circumstances beyond the inmate’s control,” which occurred in this case. Brief for Respondent at 16. For example, Jimenez could have invoked 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(B),which tolls the start date of the limitations period when “a state–created impediment prevents the timely filing of federal claims.” Brief for Respondent at 19 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(B)). Since § 2244 expressly provides a constitutionally adequate remedy for the violation that has occurred, Quarterman argues that it would be improper, as Jimenez does, to try and derive another one. See id. Instead, Jimenez should have taken advantage of the options that were readily available. See id.
Comity or Finality?
Comity is the notion that state courts are entitled to the opportunity to correct their own constitutional violations before the federal courts step in and overturn them. See Brief for Respondent at 46–47 (quoting O’Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999)). To this end, state court remedies must be exhausted before federal habeas relief can be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A).
Jimenez emphasizes that comity, finality and federalism are all furthered by interpreting reinstated appeals as part of direct review under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). See Brief for Petitioner at 41 (quoting Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 178 (2001)). Specifically, he points out that if reinstated appeals are not considered part of direct review and instead the federal one-year limitation begins to run as soon as the defendant first loses his right of appeal, the one year may expire before the state review is even exhausted. See Brief for Petitioner at 13. According to Jimenez, this would either force defendants to file habeas petitions too early, giving federal courts the chance to upset state convictions before the states are able to correct the constitutional violation themselves, or make federal review impossible because federal habeas courts are required to defer to state proceedings for factual and evidentiary findings. See Brief for Petitioner at 43–44 (quoting Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982)). Jimenez concludes that in order to “protect the state courts’ role in the enforcement of federal law” and “prevent the disruption of state judicial proceedings” the federal limitations period must not begin until after the reinstated appeal. Id. at 42 (quoting Duncan 533 U.S. at 179).
Quarterman, on the other hand, emphasizes the need to balance comity with the important aim of securing finality which, in his opinion, mandates adherence to the strict one-year limitations period of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). See Brief for Respondent at 47. He argues that this limitation establishes finality but also furthers the goal of comity by ensuring that all state proceedings are completed before federal habeas petitions are filed. See id. at 54. Quarterman also stresses the importance of the requirement that “an inmate act promptly and diligently once he learns of his ineffective–assistance claim.” Id.at 53 (quoting Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 205–206 (2006)). Quarterman believes that it is because of Jimenez’s own unnecessary delay that his opportunity to seek federal habeas review has been foreclosed. See Brief for Respondent at 23. Even after learning that his state appeal was dismissed, Quarterman claims, Jimenez waited four and a half years to seek relief. See id. at 22. Quarterman points out that the Court has already ruled that defendants may not assert, as an excuse for unreasonable delay, their pro sestatus and lack of sophistication. See id. at 23 (quoting Johnson v. United States, 544 U.S. 295, 311 (2005)).
In Jimenez v. Quarterman, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether, for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A), the one–year statute of limitations should begin to run after a reinstated direct review is completed in order to remedy a defendant’s inability to timely obtain direct review. In deciding this, the Court will have to balance the public policy concerns of comity and finality, and decide which, if either, should weigh more heavily in the balance. The Court may also consider whether 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A) is a proper vehicle for addressing the problem of past and ongoing historical deprivation of indigent people’s Sixth Amendment rights.
Edited by: Carrie Evans