Wilbert Noble v. Darrel Adam
FILED OPINION (J. CLIFFORD WALLACE, DOROTHY W. NELSON and CARLOS T. BEA) VACATED; REMANDED. Judge: JCW Authoring, FILED AND ENTERED JUDGMENT. 
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
DARREL G. ADAMS, Warden,
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Northern District of California
Ronald M. Whyte, Senior District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted
March 13, 2012—San Francisco, California
Filed April 19, 2012
Before: J. Clifford Wallace, Dorothy W. Nelson, and
Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge Wallace
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NOBLE v. ADAMS
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J. Bradley O’Connell, Assistant Director, First District Appellate Project, San Francisco, California, for the petitioner-appellant.
Pamela K. Critchfield, Deputy Attorney General, San Francisco, California, for the respondent-appellee.
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NOBLE v. ADAMS
WALLACE, Senior Circuit Judge:
Noble, a prisoner of the State of California, appeals from
the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. We
review de novo the denial of a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus on statute-of-limitations grounds. Delhomme v.
Ramirez, 340 F.3d 817, 819 (9th Cir. 2003). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2253, and we vacate and remand for
Following a jury trial in California Superior Court, Noble
was found guilty of one count of aggravated sexual assault of
a child under 14, forcible oral copulation, three counts of lewd
act on a child under 14, and one count of false imprisonment.
The superior court imposed an aggregate prison sentence of
130 years to life. The California Court of Appeal upheld
Noble’s conviction and sentence and the California Supreme
Court denied his petition for review on direct appeal. The
conviction and sentence became final for purposes of the
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) on
July 20, 2004, when the time to petition for certiorari to the
United States Supreme Court expired. See 28 U.S.C.
On June 23, 2005, Noble mailed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus to the California Superior Court for Santa Clara
County. The superior court denied Noble’s petition on July
25, 2005, on the grounds that several of Noble’s claims were
procedurally barred because they could have been raised on
direct appeal and others failed to state a prima facie case for
On September 8, 2005, Noble mailed a second petition for
a writ of habeas corpus to the same superior court. Noble’s
NOBLE v. ADAMS
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second petition re-alleged the same substantive claims as the
first petition, but also added a claim that Noble’s prior appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by failing to
raise those claims on direct appeal. The second petition also
added a claim for “cumulative prejudice.” On October 28,
2005, the superior court denied the second petition because
the claims were duplicative of Noble’s prior petition and
because Noble presented claims in a piecemeal fashion.
On December 8, 2005, Noble mailed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus to the California Court of Appeal raising the
same claims as the prior petitions. The court of appeal summarily denied the petition on February 1, 2006.
On February 15, 2006, Noble mailed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus raising the same claims as the prior petitions
to the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court summarily denied the petition on October 18, 2006.
Noble mailed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under
28 U.S.C. § 2254 to the United States District Court for the
Northern District of California on October 26, 2006. The district court dismissed the petition as untimely, and we granted
a certificate of appealability.
 Under the AEDPA, “[a] 1-year period of limitation
shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court.”
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Noble’s one year began running 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.” Section 2244(d)(1)(A). However, “[t]he time
during which a properly filed application for State postconviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward
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NOBLE v. ADAMS
any period of limitation under this subsection.” Section
 We apply the “mailbox rule” in determining whether
Noble’s petitions were timely. “Under the ‘mailbox rule,’ a
pro se prisoner’s filing of a state habeas petition is deemed
filed at the moment the prisoner delivers it to prison authorities for forwarding to the clerk of the court.” Stillman v.
LaMarque, 319 F.3d 1199, 1201 (9th Cir. 2003). Noble
mailed his first application for state collateral review twentyseven days before the expiration of the limitations period. He
mailed his petition to the district court eight days after the
denial of his petition by the California Supreme Court. Therefore, if the limitations period was tolled for the entire period
between the date Noble mailed his first state petition and the
date the California Supreme Court denied his last petition,
then his federal petition was timely. However, if the gaps
between his petitions in the state court are not tolled, then his
federal petition was untimely.
 The district court concluded that Noble was not entitled
to tolling under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2) of the gap between the
denial of his first petition in the California Superior Court and
the filing of a second petition in the same court. The district
court also held that the gap between the denial of his first petition and the filing of a petition in the California Court of
Appeal could not be tolled because Noble’s first petition was
no longer pending when he filed the petition in the court of
appeal. The district court erred in concluding, without further
analysis of California law, that Noble’s first petition was no
longer pending when he filed his petition in the court of
appeal. Therefore, we vacate and remand for a determination
of whether, under California law, Noble filed his petition in
the court of appeal within a reasonable time after the denial
of his first petition by the superior court.
 A petition that has been denied by a trial court remains
pending until it is either resolved by a higher court or until the
NOBLE v. ADAMS
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time to appeal expires. See Carey v. Saffold, 536 U.S. 214,
219-20 (2002) (“[A]n application is pending as long as the
ordinary state collateral review process is ‘in continuance’
i.e., ‘until the completion of’ that process. In other words,
until the application has achieved final resolution through the
State’s post-conviction procedures, by definition it remains
‘pending.’ ” (quoting Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1669 (1993))). Because of California’s unique system
for appellate review of habeas corpus petitions, which does
not provide a determinate time-frame for appealing the decision of a lower court, a petition that has been denied by a
lower court remains pending if the petitioner files a new petition in a higher court within a reasonable time of the petition’s denial. See id. at 222-23. Noble filed his petition in the
California Court of Appeal approximately four and a half
months after the denial of his first state petition in the superior
court. If this delay was reasonable under California law, then
his first petition remained pending during that period.
 The Warden argues that Noble abandoned his right to
seek review of his first petition by filing a second petition in
the superior court rather than proceeding directly to the California Court of Appeal. But none of the authorities he cites
support this proposition. On the contrary, such procedural
errors by a pro se plaintiff may well be excused under California law. See In re Gray, 102 Cal. Rptr. 3d 551, 559 (Cal. Ct.
App. 2009) (holding that pro se petitioner did not lack diligence where petitioner sought to effect his right to appellate
review by incorrect means). Furthermore, we have held:
The period that an application for post-conviction
review is pending is not affected or ‘untolled’ merely
because a petitioner files additional or overlapping
petitions before it is complete. Rather, each time a
petitioner files a new habeas petition at the same or
a lower level, . . . the subsequent petition has no
effect on the already pending application, but triggers an entirely separate round of review.
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NOBLE v. ADAMS
Delhomme v. Ramirez, 340 F.3d at 820. Even if Noble triggered a separate round of review by filing a second petition
in the superior court, that would not have ended his first round
Noble argues, in the alternative, that the district court erred
in concluding that Noble’s second petition in the superior
court initiated a separate round of review. But we need only
consider that holding if it turns out that Noble’s petition in the
court of appeal was not filed within a reasonable time vis-àvis his first petition. Because the district court did not make
any findings on that issue, we do not address whether Noble’s
second petition in the superior court was part of his first round
of review under King v. Roe, 340 F.3d 821, 823 (9th Cir.
 We remand to the district court to determine in the first
instance whether, under California law, Noble filed his petition in the court of appeal within a reasonable time after the
denial of his first petition in the superior court. We have
stated that an unexplained delay that is “substantially longer
than the ‘30 to 60 days’ that ‘most States’ allow for filing
petitions” is not reasonable under California law. Chaffer v.
Prosper, 592 F.3d 1046, 1048 (9th Cir. 2010). However, the
California Court of Appeal has excused delays of several
months where the petitioner offered an adequate explanation
for the delay. See In re Burdan, 86 Cal. Rptr. 3d 549, 557-58
(Cal. Ct. App. 2008) (excusing delay of ten months for pro se
petitioner where attorney said he would handle appeal but
failed to do so); In re Crockett, 71 Cal. Rptr. 3d 632, 636-37
(Cal. Ct. App. 2008) (excusing delay of approximately five
months where attorney “had no prior experience with appellate writs and could not obtain the assistance of experienced
appellate counsel”). Thus, Noble’s delay of four and a half
months may be within the range of reasonableness if his
explanation for the delay is adequate under California law.
NOBLE v. ADAMS
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In determining whether, under the circumstances of this
case, California law would excuse Noble’s delay, the district
court should consider all relevant factors. Noble contends that
his decision to file a second petition in the superior court was
an attempt to cure the deficiencies in his first petition and was
merely a good faith procedural error that can be excused
under Gray, 102 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 559. The district court’s reasonableness decision on remand may be informed by Gray
and by any other factors that bear upon Noble’s diligence.
 We wish we could be more helpful to the district court
by providing more guidance. However, this is a state law
question. Our court earlier requested advice on this issue from
the California Supreme Court but that request was denied. See
Chaffer, 592 F.3d at 1048 n.1. We, therefore, must leave it to
the district court in the first instance to determine whether the
four and a half month delay was reasonable in the context of
this case under California law.
VACATED and REMANDED.
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