(HC) Bassett v Kernan, No. 2:2016cv02428 - Document 18 (E.D. Cal. 2017)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Allison Claire on 02/24/17 recommending that respondent's motion to dismiss 6 be granted and petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus be denied as untimely. This court decline to issue the certificate of appealability. MOTION to DISMISS 6 referred to Judge John A. Mendez. Objections due within 14 days. (Plummer, M)

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(HC) Bassett v Kernan Doc. 18 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 TAMARA NICOLE BASSETT, 12 Petitioner, 13 14 No. 2:16-cv-2428 JAM AC P v. FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS SCOTT M. KERNAN, 15 Respondent. 16 Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding through retained counsel, has filed a petition for a 17 18 writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Currently before the court is respondent’s 19 fully briefed motion to dismiss (ECF No. 6), which was heard on the court’s regular law and 20 motion calendar on February 15, 2017 (ECF No. 17). I. 21 Factual and Procedural Background Petitioner was convicted in Sacramento County of (1) first-degree murder, (2) three counts 22 23 of attempted murder, and (3) discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling. ECF No. 1 at 2. 24 Sentencing enhancement allegations were found to be true, including use of a firearm and 25 commission of a crime for the benefit of a criminal gang. Id. Petitioner was sentenced to life 26 without the possibility of parole for the murder, and a consecutive 121 years to life for the 27 remaining counts and enhancements. Lod. Doc. No. 1. 28 //// 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 Petitioner appealed, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment on March 2 12, 2015. Lod. Doc. No. 2 (reversing parole revocation fine and otherwise affirming the 3 judgment). Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court on April 14, 4 2015. Lod. Doc. No. 3. The petition was denied on July 8, 2015. Lod. Doc. No. 4. 5 On October 11, 2016, petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus. ECF 6 No. 1. Respondent was ordered to respond to the petition (ECF No. 3) and filed a motion to 7 dismiss (ECF No. 6). Petitioner has opposed the motion. ECF No. 12. 8 II. 9 Motion to Dismiss Respondent argues that the petition should be dismissed because it is untimely, as it was 10 filed beyond the one-year statute of limitations. ECF No. 6 at 2-3. Additionally, respondent 11 argues that the petition should be dismissed because Ground 4 is unexhausted and petitioner is not 12 entitled to a Rhines1 stay because she has failed to demonstrate good cause. Id. at 3-4. 13 III. Opposition 14 Petitioner opposes the motion to dismiss, conceding that the petition is untimely but 15 arguing that equitable tolling is warranted to excuse the untimeliness, which was caused by 16 counsel’s miscalculation of the applicable deadline. ECF No. 12 at 2-4. Petitioner also concedes 17 that Ground 4 of the petition is unexhausted, and has filed a request for leave to withdraw the 18 unexhausted claim and file an amended petition reflecting the withdrawal. ECF No. 16. 19 IV. 20 Statute of Limitations Section 2244(d)(1) of Title 28 of the United States Code contains a one-year statute of 21 limitations for filing a habeas petition in federal court. The one-year clock commences from one 22 of several alternative triggering dates. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). In this case the applicable date is 23 that “on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of 24 the time for seeking such review.” § 2244(d)(1)(A). 25 26 27 The California Supreme Court denied review of petitioner’s conviction and sentence on July 8, 2015, and the judgment became final when the time to seek certiorari in the United States 1 Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). 28 2 1 Supreme Court expired 90 days thereafter. See Velasquez v. Kirkland, 639 F.3d 964, 965 (9th 2 Cir. 2011). Accordingly, the statute of limitations began to run on October 7, 2015, and expired 3 absent tolling on October 6, 2016. The parties do not dispute these calculations. See ECF No. 6 4 at 2; ECF No. 12 at 2. 5 Since petitioner did not file any state collateral actions, she is not entitled to any period of 6 statutory tolling. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2) (providing that statute of limitations is tolled during 7 pendency of properly-filed applications for state collateral relief). 8 Because the federal petition was filed on October 11, 2016, five days after expiration of 9 the limitations period, it can only be saved from dismissal for untimeliness if petitioner is entitled 10 to equitable tolling. Equitable tolling requires a showing “(1) that [petitioner] has been pursuing 11 [her] rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstances stood in [her] way.” Pace v. 12 DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005). Equitable tolling is only appropriate if “‘extraordinary 13 circumstances beyond a prisoner’s control make it impossible to file a petition on time.’” Laws v. 14 Lamarque, 351 F.3d 919, 922 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Spitsyn v. Moore, 345 F.3d 796, 799 (9th 15 Cir. 2003)). The petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating that equitable tolling is warranted. 16 Miranda v. Castro, 292 F.3d 1063, 1065 (9th Cir. 2002). 17 As grounds for equitable tolling, petitioner contends that retained habeas counsel 18 misunderstood the finality rules that determine commencement of the statute of limitations, and 19 wrongly believed that the decision of the California Supreme Court, denying review of the 20 intermediate appellate court’s decision, became final upon issuance of the remittitur rather than 21 upon issuance of the decision. ECF No. 12 at 2-3. Counsel was “unaware” of Rule 8.532(b)(A), 22 Cal. Rules of Court, which provides that state Supreme Court decisions are final on filing. Id. 2 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A) (one-year limitations period runs from “the date on which judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.”) The period of direct review includes the period within which a petitioner can file a petition for a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court, whether or not the petitioner actually files such a petition. Bowen v. Roe, 188 F.3d 1157 (9th Cir. 1999). In this case, the decision of the California Supreme Court issued on July 8, 2015. The ninety-day period to seek certiorari ended on October 6, 2015. The limitations period accordingly began to run on October 7, 2015, see Patterson v. Stewart, 251 F.3d 1243, 1246 (9th Cir. 2001), and the federal (continued…) 3 1 Both the United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have repeatedly held that 2 attorney negligence, including misunderstanding of the AEDPA’s requirements or miscalculation 3 of the deadline, does not support equitable tolling. Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. 327, 336-37 4 (2007) (holding that “[a]ttorney miscalculation is simply not sufficient to warrant equitable 5 tolling, particularly in the postconviction context where prisoners have no constitutional right to 6 counsel.”); Frye v. Hickman, 273 F.3d 1144, 1146 (9th Cir. 2001) (attorney negligence in 7 miscalculating limitations period does not warrant equitable tolling); Miranda v. Castro, 292 F.3d 8 1063 (9th Cir. 2002) (attorney provision of misinformation about deadline does not warrant 9 equitable tolling); Porter v. Ollison, 620 F.3d 952, 959 (9th Cir. 2010) (“[a]ttorney negligence, 10 including miscalculation of a filing deadline, is not a sufficient basis for applying equitable 11 tolling”). Such errors constitute “garden variety” excusable neglect, which fails as a matter of 12 law to meet the equitable tolling standard of extraordinary circumstances. Irwin v. Dep’t of 13 Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990). 14 Facts establishing “extraordinary” or “egregious” attorney misconduct, rather than mere 15 negligence, may nonetheless support equitable tolling. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 652-54 16 (2010); Spitsyn v. Moore, 345 F.3d 796, 800 (9th Cir. 2003). For example, in Spitsyn the court 17 found tolling appropriate because counsel had effectively abandoned his client and completely 18 failed to perform: 19 20 21 22 23 24 Though he was hired nearly a full year in advance of the deadline, [counsel] completely failed to prepare and file a petition. Spitsyn and his mother contacted [counsel] numerous times, by telephone and in writing, seeking action, but these efforts proved fruitless. Furthermore, despite a request that he return Spitsyn’s file, [counsel] retained it for the duration of the limitations period and more than two months beyond. That conduct was so deficient as to distinguish it from the merely negligent performance of counsel in Frye and Miranda. Id. at 801. Holland, which the Supreme Court remanded for consideration of equitable tolling, 25 26 27 petition was due on or before October 6, 2016. Calculating from the date the remittitur issued from the California Supreme Court (July 13, 2015) instead of the date the decision issued, counsel erroneously believed the deadline to be October 11, 2015. ECF No. 12 at 2-3. He filed on the last possible day of the miscalculated deadline. 28 4 1 also involved allegations of dereliction amounting to client abandonment. See Holland, 560 U.S. 2 at 652-53.3 3 The facts here do not come close to those of Spitsyn and Holland. Counsel here did not 4 completely fail to prepare and file a petition. He did not refuse to communicate with his client, 5 fail to provide information about the status of the case, ignore the client’s pleas that the petition 6 be prepared by a specific date, or ignore the client’s provision of the correct legal rules. Neither 7 did counsel withhold files or otherwise prevent his client from protecting her rights on her own. 8 Although counsel freely admits his failure to perform competently regarding the statute of 9 limitations, a legal error about operation of the limitations rules is the only attorney “misconduct” 10 at issue here. Because this error amounts to negligence, and not abandonment or an equivalent 11 level of egregious misconduct, it is insufficient as a matter of law to support equitable tolling. 12 See Frye, 273 F.3d at 1146; Miranda, 292 F.3d at 1068; Porter, 620 F.3d at 959; see also Taylor 13 v. Hedgpeth, No. CV 08-6483-R (AGR), 2009 WL 82276, at *2, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107961, 14 at *5 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 8, 2009) (finding that petitioner was not entitled to equitable tolling when 15 counsel for petitioner miscalculated the AEDPA deadline based on the date of remittitur in state 16 court). 17 Petitioner attempts to bring the facts of this case within the reach of Spitsyn, and 18 distinguish Miranda v. Castro, supra, on grounds that here as in Spitsyn the late filing was directly 19 caused by retained habeas counsel, rather than by the erroneous advice of a lawyer who was not 20 responsible for filing the petition, as in Miranda. ECF No. 12 at 4. That is a distinction without a 21 3 22 23 24 25 26 27 “To be sure, [counsel] failed to file Holland’s petition on time and appears to have been unaware of the date on which the limitations period expired -- two facts that, alone, might suggest simple negligence. But, in these circumstances, the record facts we have elucidated suggest that the failure amounted to more: Here, [counsel] failed to file Holland’s federal petition on time despite Holland’s many letters that repeatedly emphasized the importance of his doing so. [Counsel] apparently did not do the research necessary to find out the proper filing date, despite Holland’s letters that went so far as to identify the applicable legal rules. [Counsel] failed to inform Holland in a timely manner about the crucial fact that the Florida Supreme Court had decided his case, again despite Holland’s many pleas for that information. And [counsel] failed to communicate with his client over a period of years, despite various pleas from Holland that [counsel] respond to his letters.” Id. at 652. 28 5 1 difference. The question is whether the late filing was caused by extraordinary circumstances, 2 and the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have both squarely held that attorney 3 negligence is not an extraordinary circumstance. The Miranda petitioner was denied equitable 4 tolling because his appellate lawyer was merely negligent in giving wrong information about the 5 deadline, not because the lawyer wasn’t responsible for the habeas petition. And the Spitsyn 6 petitioner was entitled to equitable tolling because his lawyer committed egregious misconduct 7 above and beyond negligence, not because he was responsible for filing the habeas petition. The 8 distinction that matters is between negligence and egregious misconduct, not between appellate 9 and habeas counsel. 10 Petitioner argues that without equitable tolling, she will be personally prejudiced because 11 of counsel’s errors. That is absolutely true. When a petitioner is represented by counsel, she – 12 like any other client in our system of representative litigation – “must bear the risk of attorney 13 error.” Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 753 (1991).4 In fact, “the principal rationale for 14 disallowing equitable tolling based on ordinary attorney miscalculation is that the error of an 15 attorney is constructively attributable to the client and thus is not a circumstance beyond the 16 litigant’s control.” Holland, 560 U.S. at 657 (Alito, J., concurring) (citations omitted). 17 Accordingly, petitioner’s dependence upon counsel in this case does not support equitable tolling 18 – though it undoubtedly highlights the harsh results created by statutes of limitations and 19 attorneys who negligently fail to understand and follow them. 20 Petitioner’s theory for equitable tolling, based exclusively on counsel’s erroneous 21 understanding of the limitations period, is contrary to settled authority. As the Supreme Court 22 explained in Lawrence, 23 If credited, this argument would essentially equitably toll limitations periods for every person whose attorney missed a deadline. Attorney miscalculation is simply not sufficient to 24 25 4 26 27 In Coleman, the petitioner was denied review of his federal claims because his lawyer had filed a notice of appeal in state court 3 days late, causing a procedural default. Mr. Coleman was eventually executed without federal court review of his claims, because of attorney error attributed to him by these general agency principles. 28 6 1 warrant equitable tolling, particularly in the postconviction context where prisoners have no constitutional right to counsel. 2 3 4 Lawrence, 549 U.S. at 336-37. V. Conclusion If this case involved a deadline that the court had the discretion to extend, it would do so 5 6 on grounds of excusable neglect. However, that is not the standard which applies here. Petitioner 7 did not miss a court-imposed filing deadline, but a statute of limitations. The court has no 8 authority to excuse such lateness. For the reasons explained above, petitioner has not established 9 that extraordinary circumstances caused the late filing. Because the petition must therefore be 10 dismissed as untimely, the undersigned need not and does not reach the exhaustion issue. 11 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 12 1. Respondent’s motion to dismiss (ECF No. 6) be granted and petitioner’s application 13 for a writ of habeas corpus be denied as untimely. 2. This court decline to issue the certificate of appealability referenced in 28 U.S.C. § 14 15 2253. 16 These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge 17 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days 18 after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written 19 objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned 20 “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” Any response to the 21 objections shall be filed and served within fourteen days after service of the objections. The 22 parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to 23 appeal the District Court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 24 DATED: February 24, 2017 25 26 27 28 7

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