Amador v. Stephens
MEMORANDUM OPINION and Order entered. Respondent's motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No.9) is GRANTED, and this lawsuit is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as barred by limitations. Any and all pending motions are DENIED AS MOOT. A certificate of appealability is DENIED. (Signed by Judge Gray H Miller) Parties notified. (wbostic, 4)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
WILMER RUIZ AMADOR,
February 01, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION No. H-16-0983
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Petitioner, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed a section 2254 habeas petition
challenging his 20 12 felony murder conviction. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss based
on expiration of limitations (Docket Entry No. 9), to which petitioner filed a response
(Docket Entry No. 11).
Having reviewed the motion, the response, the record, the pleadings, and the
applicable law, the Court GRANTS the motion to dismiss and DISMISSES this case as
barred by limitations.
Background and Claims
Petitioner was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to twenty years'
incarceration on March 26, 2012. His direct appeal was dismissed for want of jurisdiction,
and no petition for discretionary review was filed. Amador v. State, No. 01-12-00337-CR,
2012 WL5458438 at* 1 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Nov. 8, 2012, no pet.). Petitioner's
application for state habeas relief, filed with the trial court on December 1, 20 15, was denied
by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on March 9, 2016.
Petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition no earlier than March 29, 2016,
claiming that he was denied his right to counsel on appeal.
This petition is governed by provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus petitions are subject
to a one-year limitations period found in 28 U.S.C. § 2244( d), which provides as follows:
(d)(l) A 1-year period oflimitations shall apply to an application for a writ of
habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a
State court. The limitation period shall run 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
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 State action;
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
the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims
presented could have been discovered through the exercise of
The time during which a properly filed application for State
post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent
judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of
limitation under this subsection.
28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(d)(l)-(2).
As stated, petitioner was convicted and sentenced on March 26, 20 12, and his direct
appeal was dismissed on November 8, 2012. No petition for discretionary review was filed.
Thus, petitioner's conviction became final thirty days after dismissal of the appeal, on
December 10, 2012. See TEX. R. APP. P. 68.2(A). Petitioner's federal one-year limitation
expired on December 10,2013. Because petitioner's application for state habeas reliefwas
not filed until December 1, 2015, it did not toll federal limitations, and the instant federal
petition is untimely. See Scott v. Johnson, 227 F.3d 260, 263 (5th Cir. 2000).
Petitioner argues in this federal petition that he "was so deprived of a constitutional
right as to overcome any bar." (Docket Entry No. 1, p. 9.) He cites no authority supporting
this pat proposition, and the Court finds none. Petitioner also argues that prison officials
misled him to believe his appeal was still pending as of August 26, 20 15. In support, he
attaches a copy of a prison records office time credit sheet dated August 26, 2015, which
reflected his time served, parole time credits, work/good time credit, and sentence expiration
date. The report also reflected work/good time credit loss, which was "00000 days."
Petitioner drew an arrow to a portion of the report form that stated, "*This inmates [sic] case
which he interpreted as meaning the direct appeal of his state criminal
conviction remained pending. 1
The Court is not persuaded by petitioner~s argument. The intermediate state court of
appeals itself had notified petitioner at his address of record that it issued an opinion in his
appeal on November 8, 2012. Moreover, the purpose of the prison time credit sheet was to
inform prisoners of relevant time calculations regarding their prison sentences, and not to
advise them as to the status of external court litigation. The form did not report that
state court appeal remained pending, nor did it identify any specific "case."
Petitioner does not allege that any prison or state official told him that the term "case"
referred to his state court appeal. Simply put, petitioner unilaterally misinterpreted or
misunderstood the time credit sheet.
Regardless, petitioner's allegations regarding the time credit sheet provide him no
benefit. The federal one-year habeas limitation is governed by statutory and equitable
factors. The statutory provisions- sections 2244( d)( 1)(A) through (D)- are circumscribed,
and have no application to petitioner's particular allegations. In particular, petitioner cannot
successfully argue under section 2244( d)(l )(D) that the time credit sheet stood as an
unconstitutional State-created impediment that prevented his timely habeas filing. The time
Given its location under the "good time lost" entry, the term "case" would appear to
reference a disciplinary case, not the judicial appeal of a state criminal conviction. Moreover,
there is no corresponding asterisk in the text material to which this phrase applies.
credit sheet was neither unconstitutional nor did it prevent petitioner's timely filing, as he
received it well after expiration of limitations.
Likewise, petitioner is not entitled to equitable tolling. To merit equitable tolling, a
petitioner must show that he has been pursuing his rights diligently and that some
extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented him from filing a timely petition.
McQuiggin v. Perkins, _U.S. __, 133 S. Ct. 1924, 1928 (2013); Hollandv. Florida, 560
U.S. 631, 649 (2010). The Court need go no further in this analysis than to again note that
petitioner received the time credit sheet after expiration oflimitations; accordingly, it did not
prevent his timely filing. Petitioner's arguments in his petition afford him no basis for
In his response to the motion to dismiss, petitioner asserts new arguments in further
effort to negate the limitations bar. He now argues that the Estelle Unit had an inadequate
law library for inmates because state, federal, and Supreme Court reporters were replaced
with computerized versions not readily available to inmates. He states that this resulted in
his inability to research, draft, and file timely applications for state and federal habeas relief.
Petitioner claims entitlement to equitable tolling as well as application of section
2244(d)(1)(B), either one of which could render his federal petition timely filed.
For purposes of equitable tolling, petitioner must demonstrate that he diligently
pursued his legal rights from November 8, 20 12, through the date he filed his federal petition.
Of particular significance is petitioner's diligence, if any, from November 8, 2012, to
December 1, 2015, when he filed his application for state habeas relief. However, nothing
in the record shows that petitioner took any action regarding his conviction during that time
frame. Moreover, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that "an inadequate law library
does not constitute a 'rare and exceptional' circumstance warranting equitable tolling." Scott
v. Johnson, 227 F.3d 260, 263 at n. 3 (5th Cir. 2000). Thus, petitioner's allegations and the
record do not evince his entitlement to equitable tolling.
Petitioner fares no better in his reliance on section 2244( d)( 1)(B). Under the statutory
time-bar reset provision of section 2244( d)( 1)(B), the one-year limitation commences on 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 State action. As acknowledged by the Fifth Circuit, "The requirements for this
restart are understandably steep." Wickware v. Thaler, 404 F. App'x 856, 862 (5th Cir.
2010). In order to invoke section 2244(d)(l)(B), petitioner must show that: (1) he was
prevented from filing a petition (2) by State action (3) in violation of the Constitution or
federal law. !d. Moreover, these requirements imply an element of causality and materiality
with respect to a petitioner's ability to file a habeas petition. Thus, a petitioner "must also
show that ... [the impediment] actually prevented him from timely filing his habeas
Krause v. Thaler, 637 F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 2011) (emphasis added).
Consequently, petitioner here must show that the lack ofphysical reporter volumes in the law
library prevented his timely filing- that is, it prevented his filing on or before December 10,
Petitioner states in his response to the motion to dismiss as follows:
The Constitutional inadequacy of the Estelle Unit law library directly
contributed to [my] delay in filing [my] state petition for habeas corpus relief,
because there were no case reporters [I] could use to determine if [I] had a
claim with merit[.]
[I do] not know when the state, federal, and Supreme Court reporters were
removed from the Estelle law library. Nor [am I] required to know; the
AEDP A only refers to a time in which an impediment to filing created by the
state is removed. Because the state-created impediment [I referred to] still
exists, that is the only showing AEDP A requires of [me].
(Docket Entry No. 11, p. 3, original emphasis.)
Petitioner statement of the law is incorrect. It is not enough that he allege that, at
some undisclosed point in time, the Estelle Unit law library removed physical copies of
reporter volumes and that they currently remain unavailable. Rather, he must show that the
lack of the legal materials actually prevented him from timely filing his habeas petition.
Because neither petitioner nor the record establishes that this alleged State-created
impediment existed as of December 10, 2013, petitioner does not show that an inadequate
law library at the Estelle Unit actually prevented his filing of a timely habeas petition.
For purposes of this proceeding, the Court will assume, without finding, that replacement
of the physical reporter volumes with a computerized on-line system was an unconstitutional Statecreated action.
More importantly, petitioner's own allegations show that he was able to file an
application for state habeas relief during the existence of the alleged State-created
impediment. He claims that he does not know when the impediment arose, but states that it
"directly contributed to [my] delay in filing [my] state petition for habeas corpus relief."
This could indicate that the impediment existed as of December 10, 2013, and continued
unabated through the date of his instant response in 2016. Because the impediment would
have existed as of December 1, 2015, when petitioner filed his application for state habeas
relief, he cannot claim that the impediment prevented his pursuit of judicial relief. See
Felder v. Johnson, 204 F.3d 168, 171-72 (5th Cir. 2000) (holding that section 2244(d)(l)(B)
has no application if a petitioner was able to seek habeas relief during the existence of an
alleged state impediment). Because petitioner filed both state and federal habeas petitions
during the existence of the alleged impediment, he cannot successfully claim that this same
impediment prevented his timely filing. If the impediment existed as ofDecember 10, 20 13,
and continued unabated, then this same impediment did not prevent petitioner's filing a
habeas petition on December 1, 2015. Petitioner does not show why he could file an
untimely habeas petition in 2015 but not file a timely petition in 2013, when the same
impediment was allegedly operational at both points in time. Petitioner's allegations do not
establish that an unconstitutional State-created impediment prevented his filing a timely
habeas petition, and the "restart" provision of section 2244( d)(l )(B) is inapplicable.
Petitioner's federal habeas petition is untimely and must be dismissed.
Respondent's motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No.9) is GRANTED, and this lawsuit
is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as barred by limitations. Any and all pending motions
are DENIED AS MOOT. A certificate of appealability is DENIED.
Signed at Houston, Texas on January 31, 2017.
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