Smith v. Brewer
OPINION and ORDER Denying the 11 Motion to Dismiss and Directing Respondent to File Rule 5 Materials and Answer Addressing Petition's Merits. Signed by District Judge Linda V. Parker. (RLou)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
ASHTON ARNIZE SMITH,
Case No. 16-14513
Honorable Linda V. Parker
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE MOTION TO DISMISS AND
DIRECTING RESPONDENT TO FILE RULE 5 MATERIALS AND
ANSWER ADDRESSING PETITION’S MERITS
This matter is before the Court on Respondent’s motion to dismiss the
petition on the ground that Petitioner’s application for writ of habeas corpus is
barred by the statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Petitioner filed a
motion for equitable tolling and response to the motion to dismiss. Having
reviewed the parties’ filings, including Petitioner’s habeas application and the
issues raised therein, his motion for equitable tolling, and response to the motion to
dismiss, the Court is denying the motion to dismiss and ordering Respondent to file
an answer addressing the merits of the petition and the Rule 5 materials within
sixty days of this decision.
In the statute of limitations context, “dismissal is appropriate only if a
complaint clearly shows the claim is out of time.” Harris v. New York, 186 F.3d
243, 250 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Cooey v. Strickland, 479 F.3d 412, 415-16 (6th
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a oneyear statute of limitations applies to an application for the writ of habeas corpus by
a person in custody pursuant to a judgment of a state court. The limitations period
runs from the latest of:
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of
direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created
by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United
States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially
recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly
recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to
cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims
presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).
The Michigan Supreme Court denied Petitioner leave to appeal on June 25,
2012, following the Michigan Court of Appeals’ affirmance of his conviction on
direct review. Petitioner’s conviction became final for purposes of AEDPA’s
limitations period, when the ninety-day period for seeking certiorari with the
United States Supreme Court expired. See Jimenez v. Quarterman, 555 U.S. 113,
119 (2009). Petitioner’s judgment therefore became final on September 23, 2012,
when he failed to file a petition for writ of certiorari. Petitioner had until the end
of the day on September 23, 2013, to file his habeas petition in compliance with
the one-year limitations period.
Petitioner signed and dated his habeas application on December 20, 2016,
and the application was filed with this Court on December 27, 2016. Under the
prison mailbox rule, Petitioner is considered to have filed his habeas petition on the
date it was signed and dated. See Towns v. U.S., 190 F.3d 468, 469 (6th Cir. 1999).
Because Petitioner filed the petition well after the limitations period expired, the
petition is untimely.
Petitioner concedes that his petition is untimely. Nevertheless, he contends
that the limitations period should be equitably tolled because he suffers from a
longstanding mental illness, which was compounded by a long history of substance
abuse. Petitioner claims he was involuntarily medicated by the Michigan
Department of Corrections, which left him disoriented as to time and place.
Petitioner further claims that he is illiterate and was ignorant of the fact that he
could seek habeas relief on his state conviction until he enrolled in the Legal
Writers Program in prison. Petitioner indicates that he needed the assistance of a
prison paralegal to assist him with the preparation of his petition. Petitioner further
alleges that while the limitations period was running, he suffered from a rare eye
disease which was not properly treated and which left him temporarily blind.
AEDPA’s statute of limitations “is subject to equitable tolling in appropriate
cases.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645 (2010). A habeas petitioner is
entitled to equitable tolling “only if he shows ‘(1) that he has been pursuing his
rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way’”
and prevented the timely filing of the habeas petition. Id. at 649 (quoting Pace v.
DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005)).
In the present case, Petitioner’s filings raise a genuine issue of material fact
as to whether this Court should equitably toll the one-year limitations period in this
case. See, e.g. Stiltner v. Hart, 657 F. App’x. 513, 524-26 (6th Cir. 2016)
(equitably tolling AEDPA’s limitations period, finding that the petitioner diligently
pursued his claims to the extent he could understand them, barely understood his
claims (if he understood them at all), had an extremely short attention span and
poor memory, and finding it unlikely that he would be able to monitor the legal
assistance provided for him by a fellow prisoner or an attorney to make sure that
they met the relevant deadline).
In addition, although the issue of whether a claim is procedurally barred
should ordinarily be resolved first, “judicial economy sometimes dictates reaching
the merits [of a claim or claims] if the merits are easily resolvable against a
petitioner while the procedural bar issues are complicated.” Barrett v. Acevedo,
169 F.3d 1155, 1162 (8th Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted). Because the
statute of limitations does not constitute a jurisdictional bar to habeas review, a
federal court can proceed to the merits of a habeas petition in the interest of
judicial economy. See Smith v. State of Ohio Dep’t of Rehab., 463 F. 3d 426, 429
n.2 (6th Cir. 2006). In the present case, it appears that it may be easier and more
judicially efficient to adjudicate Petitioner’s claims on the merits “than to untangle
the complexities of the timeliness issue.” See Jones v. Bowersox, 28 F. App’x. 610,
611 (8th Cir. 2002). Accordingly, the Court believes that the ends of justice would
be better served by ordering an answer addressing the merits of the petition.
IT IS ORDERED that Respondent’s motion to dismiss (ECF NO. 11) is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Respondent shall submit an answer
addressing the merits of Petitioner’s habeas claims and any Rule 5 materials not
already filed within sixty (60) days of this decision;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Petitioner shall have forty-five (45)
days following receipt of the answer to file a reply brief.
s/ Linda V. Parker
LINDA V. PARKER
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: December 4, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was mailed to counsel of
record and/or pro se parties on this date, December 4, 2017, by electronic and/or
U.S. First Class mail.
s/ R. Loury
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?