Clifford Medley v. Rick Thaler, Director
UNPUBLISHED OPINION FILED. [08-11009 Affirmed ] Judge: EGJ , Judge: HRD , Judge: JLD. Mandate pull date is 11/30/2010 [08-11009]
Clifford Medley v. Rickase: 08-11009 C Thaler, Director
Document: 00511288632 Page: 1 Date Filed: 11/09/2010
IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS United States Court of Appeals FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT Fifth Circuit FILED
November 9, 2010 N o . 08-11009 Lyle W. Cayce Clerk
C L I F F O R D MEDLEY P e t it io n e r Appellant v. R I C K THALER, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL J U S T I C E , CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION,
A p p e a l from the United States District Court fo r the Northern District of Texas U S D C No. 2:07-CV-0051
B e fo r e JOLLY, DeMOSS, and DENNIS, Circuit Judges. P E R CURIAM:* T h e petitioner, Clifford Scott Medley, appeals the dismissal of his habeas p e t it io n as untimely filed. He argues that his unsuccessful efforts to mail his h a b e a s petition through his prison mail room prior to the expiration of the oney e a r statute of limitations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty A c t ("AEDPA"), see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d), entitle him to the benefits of the mailbox
Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR. R. 47.5.4.
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No. 08-11009 r u le or equitable tolling of the statute of limitations; and therefore, we should t r e a t his petition as having been timely filed. We conclude that Medley's failure t o timely mail his petition through his prison mail room resulted from his failure t o comply with a reasonable prison regulation and that he is therefore entitled t o neither the benefit of the mailbox rule nor equitable tolling. Accordingly, we A F F IR M . BACKGROUND I n March 2002, Medley was convicted of murder and sentenced to forty y e a r s imprisonment. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed, and, on November 7 , 2005, the Supreme Court denied Medley's petition for certiorari. Medley v. T e x a s , 546 U.S. 1002 (2005). For the purposes of AEDPA, this was the date on w h ic h Medley's conviction became final. See Giesberg v. Cockrell, 288 F.3d 268, 2 7 1 (5th Cir. 2002). Thus, under AEDPA, absent tolling, Medley had until N o v e m b e r 7, 2006, to file a federal habeas petition. He did not file a state habeas p e t it io n or any other form of collateral attack on his conviction until January 9, 2 0 0 7 . Therefore, no statutory tolling applied. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). His in s t a n t federal petition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, was mailed by a third p a r ty , Medley's mother, from outside the prison system and not filed until March 2 1 , 2007. Accordingly, the district court concluded that it was filed outside of A E D P A 's one-year statute of limitations and dismissed the petition. M e d le y contended below, and argues on appeal, that his petition should h a v e been considered timely filed because of the mailbox rule. He claims that he o r ig in a lly submitted his petition to his prison mail room on October 31, 2006. T h u s , he argues that under the mailbox rule, it should have been considered file d as of that date, eight days prior to AEDPA's one year deadline. In the a lt e r n a t iv e , he argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling for the period b e tw e e n when he originally submitted his petition to the prison mail room and
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No. 08-11009 t h e date on which it was actually filed, March 21, 2007, which would also make h is petition timely filed. Medley acknowledges that when he submitted his petition to the prison m a il room, he did so with a request that the petition be held pending prison a u t h o r it ie s deducting the $5 filing fee from his prison account and transmitting t h e fee to the prison mail room, so that the mail room staff could combine the fee w it h the petition and mail them together. He further acknowledges that the p e t it io n was returned to him on November 4, 2006, three days prior to the A E D P A deadline, on the ground that the mail room was not allowed to hold the p e t it io n pending receipt of the filing fee. Instead, prison procedures required t h a t Medley mail the petition without the filing fee and then separately request t h a t the filing fee be withdrawn from his prison account and sent to the court. Medley argues that his failure to comply with this prison mail regulation s h o u ld be excused, and thus his petition should be considered to have been p r o p e r ly submitted to the prison mail room, because the regulation was u n r e a s o n a b le . Specifically, he argues that the prison mail regulation is in c o n flic t with Rule 3(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the District C o u r t s . Rule 3(a) states that "[a]n original and two copies of the petition must b e filed with the clerk and must be accompanied by: (1) the applicable filing fee, o r (2) a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis." Relatedly, he notes that t h e United States District Court's form for filing a "writ of habeas corpus by a p e r s o n in state custody" states that "[w]hen the Clerk of Court receives the $5.00 filin g fee, the Clerk will file your petition if it is in proper order." H e also explains that a number of circumstances outside his control stood in the way of his properly filing his petition. He states that the prison mail room s t a ff informed him that a prisoner may request his or her petition be held p e n d in g the withdrawal of the filing fee and that the fee be mailed with the p e t it io n . He also states that the same staff told him that his petition would be 3
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No. 08-11009 fo u n d non-compliant by the court if it was not mailed together with the fee. S lig h t ly contradicting himself, he further states that the mail room staff referred h im to the prison library staff to determine whether he could file his petition and fe e separately. He continues that the prison library staff and a prison official in fo r m e d him that they could not provide legal advice, and instructed him to r e a d Rule 3(a) and do what he believed was required. They also instructed him t h a t if he concluded that he needed to mail his fee with his petition, he would h a v e to hire an attorney in order to avoid the prison mail room's requirements. M e d le y submitted requests to prison officials to modify the mail regulation so t h a t he could mail his fee with his petition. These requests went unanswered. Medley subsequently attempted to find someone in the "free world" who w o u ld mail his petition with his filing fee. In the interim, he filed a state habeas p e t i t i o n believing that this would toll the statute of limitations of his federal h a b e a s petition. He eventually mailed his federal petition to his mother, along w it h a motion to stay and abate proceedings. His mother mailed both documents w it h the filing fee to the district court. It was that version of the federal petition t h a t was eventually filed on March 21, 2007. A fte r considering the arguments above, a magistrate judge concluded that M e d le y was not entitled to the benefits of the mailbox rule for his October 31, 2 0 0 6 submission of his petition to his prison mail room. The magistrate judge e x p la in e d that Medley had "failed to follow proper prison procedure and his m a ilin g was rejected," and therefore the mailbox rule did not apply. The m a g is tr a t e judge went on that "to the extent petitioner argues he is entitled to e q u it a b le tolling in light of his efforts to contact prison authorities and mail his fe d e r a l petition, such a claim is without merit. . . . Even accepting petitioner's r e p r e s e n t a t io n s as true, he waited until the end of October of 2006, only days b e fo r e the AEDPA deadline and more than two months before filing his state h a b e a s petition, to even attempt to mail the federal petition. Such inaction by 4
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No. 08-11009 a petitioner for almost an entire year disqualifies this case [from] any equitable t o llin g ." Over Medley's objections, the district court adopted the magistrate ju d g e 's Report and Recommendation in full. This court granted a Certificate of A p p e a la b ilit y ("COA") on two issues: (1) whether "the district court was correct i n its procedural ruling that Medley was not entitled to the benefit of the m a ilb o x rule" and thus his petition was filed outside AEDPA's statute of lim it a t io n s ; and (2) whether, in light of Medley's attempt to file his petition in a timely fashion under the mailbox rule, the district court was correct in denying M e d le y equitable tolling of the statute of limitations.1 S T A N D A R D OF REVIEW " T h e decision of a district court to deny a habeas application on procedural g r o u n d s is reviewed de novo." Howland v. Quarterman, 507 F.3d 840, 843 (5th C ir . 2007). "However, we review a district court's decision to deny equitable t o llin g for abuse of discretion and its factual findings for clear error." Id. (citation o m itte d ). DISCUSSION 1 ) Whether Medley's October 31 Submission of His Petition to the Prison Mail R o o m is Entitled to the Benefits of the Mailbox Rule P r o se prisoners' filings are governed by the mailbox rule. Thus, they are d e e m e d "filed as soon as the pleadings have been deposited into the prison mail s y s t e m ." Spotville v. Cain, 149 F.3d 374, 376 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Houston v. L a c k , 487 U.S. 266 (1988) and Cooper v. Brookshire, 70 F.3d 377, 379 (5th Cir. 1 9 9 5 )). We have held that this rule should be enforced "even if the pro se litigant
On appeal, Medley raises a number of other bases on which he believes he is entitled to equitable tolling, including the alleged bias of a state court judge reviewing his case, the unlawfulness of certain provisions of the Texas constitution, and the unlawfulness of how AEDPA's statute of limitations is calculated. A COA is required before this court has jurisdiction to consider these arguments. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c). As a COA was not granted on these claims, we do not address them here.
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No. 08-11009 h a s not paid the required filing fee at the time the petition is turned over for m a ilin g ." Cousin v. Lensing, 310 F.3d 843, 847 (5th Cir. 2002). However, this c o u r t has also stated that the mailbox rule "[does] not relieve a prisoner of the r e s p o n s ib ilit y of doing all that he or she can reasonably do to ensure that d o c u m e n t s are received by the clerk of court in a timely manner." Dison v. W h itle y , 20 F.3d 185, 187 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Thompson v. Raspberry, 993 F .2 d 513, 514 (5th Cir. 1993)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, " [f]a ilu r e to stamp or properly address outgoing mail or to follow reasonable p r is o n regulations governing prisoner mail does not constitute compliance with t h is standard" and thereby does not entitle one's submission to the benefits of t h e mailbox rule. Id. (quoting Thompson, 993 F.2d at 514) (emphasis removed a n d internal quotation marks omitted). Based on these principles, the mailbox rule does not apply to Medley's O c t o b e r 31 submission of his habeas petition to his prison mail room. Neither p a r ty contests that Medley failed to comply with the prison's regulation for m a ilin g his habeas petition. Therefore, his petition was not accepted by the mail r o o m and was returned to Medley. Contrary to Medley's request that his petition b e held so that it could be combined with his filing fee, the regulation required t h a t the petition be mailed separately from the filing fee and mandated that the p e t it io n could not be held pending the withdrawal of the fee from Medley's prison a ccou n t. Thus, as long as this regulation was "reasonable," Medley cannot obtain t h e benefits of the mailbox rule. See Dison, 20 F.3d at 187. What constitutes a " r e a s o n a b le " prison regulation is not defined in this court's case law and we need n o t define it here, because the prison's regulation is reasonable under any u n d e r s t a n d in g of the word. Under the mailbox rule as articulated in Cousin, the p r is o n 's requirement that a prisoner mail his habeas petition separate from his filin g fee in no way interferes with the prisoner's ability to timely file a habeas 6
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No. 08-11009 p e t it io n . We would have considered Medley's petition timely filed had he s u b m it t e d his petition to his prison mail room without the filing fee, but prior to t h e expiration of the AEDPA statute of limitations. Cousin, 310 F.3d at 847. Although Rule 3(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the D is t r ic t Courts states that a petition must be accompanied by the filing fee, the A d v is o r y Committee notes for the 2004 amendments to Rule 3(b) state that "the c le r k would also be required, for example, to file the petition even though it la c k e d the requisite filing fee or an in forma pauperis form." Similarly, our court h a s stated that the mailbox rule "constitutes an exception" to Rule 3's r e q u ir e m e n t s ; thus a pro se prisoner like Medley need not mail his fee with his p e t it io n in order for it be treated as filed.2 Cousin, 310 F.3d at 847. Therefore, M e d le y was able to comply with the requirements of both Rule 3(a) and the p r is o n regulation. M o r e o v e r , the regulation has clear administrative benefits: It relieves the p r is o n of the need to keep track of un-mailed petitions and the responsibility to e n s u r e that the fee is properly submitted with the petition. Therefore, as it does n o t improperly burden a prisoner's filing of his or her habeas petition, and it s e r v e s a positive purpose, the mail regulation is reasonable. Based on our h o ld in g in Dison that the mailbox rule will not be applied if the petitioner fails t o comply with a reasonable prison regulation, Medley's October 31, 2006, s u b m is s io n of his petition is not entitled to the benefits of the mailbox rule and t h u s his petition cannot be considered timely filed on that basis. 2) Whether Medley is Entitled to Equitable Tolling
Further, the Third and Seventh Circuits have interpreted Rule 3(a) to mean that its requirement that the fee accompany the petition should only be understood as a demand that the "`fee or IFP application'" follow "`within a reasonable time after the petition.'" Harris v. Vaughn, 129 F. App'x 684, 689-90 (3d Cir. 2005) (unpublished) (quoting Jones v. Bertrand, 171 F.3d 499, 502 (7th Cir. 1999)).
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No. 08-11009 T h e Supreme Court recently stated, consistent with this court's precedent, t h a t "the timeliness provision in the federal habeas corpus statute is subject to e q u it a b le tolling." Holland v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2549, 2554 (2010). In doing so, it adopted the established standard for determining whether equitable tolling a p p lie s : "that a `petitioner' is `entitled to equitable tolling' only if he shows `(1) t h a t he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary c ir c u m s t a n c e stood in his way' and prevented timely filing." Id. at 2562 (quoting P a c e v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005)). While the Court stated that the q u e s t io n of what is an "extraordinary circumstance" necessarily involved a "factin t e n s iv e " inquiry, id. at 2565, it went on to explain that the facts of Holland " m a y well" provide a useful example of an extraordinary circumstance, id. at 2 5 6 4 . In Holland, the Court detailed, Holland's attorney "failed to file Holland's fe d e r a l petition on time despite Holland's many letters that repeatedly e m p h a s iz e d the importance of his doing so. [The attorney] apparently did not do t h e research necessary to find out the proper filing date, despite Holland's letters t h a t went so far as to identify the applicable legal rules. [The attorney] failed to in fo r m Holland in a timely manner about the crucial fact that the Florida S u p r e m e Court had decided his case, again despite Holland's many pleas for that in fo r m a t io n . And [the attorney] failed to communicate with his client over a p e r io d of years, despite various pleas from Holland." Id. In light of this example, and thus, the apparently exacting demands for d e m o n s t r a t in g an "extraordinary circumstance," we cannot say that the district c o u r t abused its discretion in denying Medley equitable tolling of AEDPA's s t a t u t e of limitations. Medley's petition was not timely filed because he failed to c o m p ly with a prison regulation which, as detailed above, was reasonable given a proper understanding of the law. Taking Medley's arguments as true, he r e c e iv e d inaccurate advice from the prison mail room staff, which caused him to fa il to re-submit his petition to the prison mail room in compliance with the 8
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No. 08-11009 p r is o n regulation. However, this circumstance is significantly different from the fa c t s of Holland, as the mail room staff, unlike a prisoner's attorney, do not have t h e duty to represent the prisoner's interests. Moreover, unlike in Holland, M e d le y acknowledges that the mail room staff also gave Medley correct advice, t o speak with the prison law library staff. The prison law library staff instructed M e d le y to read Rule 3. Had he read the notes following the rule, he would have b e e n made aware that he could have mailed his petition without the fee. A lt e r n a t iv e ly , had Medley read this court's decision in Cousin, he would have r e a liz e d that he could have filed his petition without his fee. Therefore, the c ir c u m s t a n c e s that stood in Medley's way were largely of his own making and s ig n ific a n t ly different from the extraordinary circumstance that Holland in d ic a te s is required for equitable tolling. See Howland, 507 F.3d at 846 (stating t h a t neither ignorance of the law nor the failure to properly file a petition e n tit le d a prisoner to equitable tolling). Thus, we cannot say that the district c o u r t abused its discretion in refusing Medley equitable tolling. M e d le y cites a number of cases that he claims establish that "legal c o n fu s io n " entitles a petitioner to equitable tolling. Those cases are not on point. I n Solomon v. United States, the Sixth Circuit held that a prisoner was entitled t o equitable tolling, in part because he could not obtain the necessary access to t h e law library, not because he did not understand the law. 467 F.3d 928, 933-34 (6 t h Cir. 2006). There is no indication that Medley was unable to obtain a copy o f Rule 3 and its Advisory Committee notes or access this court's case law on the m ailb ox rule. In Lawrence v. Florida, the Supreme Court denied equitable tolling w h e n a prisoner failed to follow clearly established law, even though the p r o c e d u r a l posture of his case created confusion as to the filing deadline and his a t t o r n e y failed to properly calculate the end date of the statute of limitations. 5 4 9 U.S. 327, 336-37 (2007). Lawrence thus supports our conclusion that the c ir c u m s t a n c e s of this case do not merit equitable tolling. 9
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No. 08-11009 C O N C L U S IO N M e d le y failed to timely file his habeas petition because he failed to comply w it h a reasonable prison regulation. Those failures were a product of his own m is u n d e r s t a n d in g of the law. Accordingly, his initial submission of his habeas p e t it io n to his prison mail room is not entitled to the benefit of the mailbox rule n o r is Medley entitled to equitable tolling of the AEDPA statute of limitations. T h e r e fo r e , we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.
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