Harris v. Clarke
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon on 11/14/2017. (slt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
ROBERT GRANT HARRIS,
HAROLD W. CLARKE,
Civil Action No. 7:17cv00488
By: Elizabeth K. Dillon
United States District Judge
Robert Grant Harris, a Virginia inmate proceeding with counsel, filed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge his criminal judgment entered by the
Henry County Circuit Court. This matter is before the court for preliminary review, pursuant to
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. After reviewing the record, the court
dismisses the petition as time-barred.
On October 7, 2014, after pleading guilty, the Henry County Circuit Court convicted
Harris of twenty-eight counts of possessing child pornography and sentenced him to 140 years of
incarceration, with all but 7 years and 1 month suspended. Harris did not appeal. On February
16, 2016, more than a year after his conviction became final, Harris filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of Virginia. The court dismissed his habeas petition on
October 28, 2016. Harris filed the instant federal habeas petition on October 20, 2017.
The court conditionally filed the petition, advised Harris that the petition appeared to be
untimely filed, and provided him the opportunity to explain why the court should consider it
timely filed. Harris did not respond.
Habeas petitions filed under § 2254 are subject to a one-year limitations period. 28
U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).1 A petitioner must demonstrate either the timeliness of his petition
pursuant to § 2244(d) or that the principle of equitable tolling applies in his case. See Hill v.
Braxton, 277 F.3d 701 (4th Cir. 2002); Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325 (4th Cir. 2000).
Otherwise, an untimely petition may be dismissed by a federal district court. See Hill, 277 F.3d
The statute of limitations began to run in Harris’s case on November 6, 2014, when his
conviction became final.2 Therefore, Harris had until November 6, 2015, to file a timely federal
habeas petition. Harris did not meet this deadline; in fact, by that date, Harris had yet to file his
state habeas petition.3 Accordingly, Harris’s petition is barred unless he demonstrates grounds
for equitable tolling of the one-year statute of limitations.
A district court may apply equitable tolling only in “those rare instances where—due to
circumstances external to the party’s own conduct—it would be unconscionable to enforce the
limitation period against the party and gross injustice would result.” Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d.
238, 246 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Harris, 209 F.3d at 330). The petitioner must demonstrate that
some action by the respondent or “some other extraordinary circumstance beyond his control”
The one-year period begins to run on the latest of four dates:
(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
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered
through the exercise of due diligence.
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).
Harris makes no argument to support a later start to the statute of limitations applicable in this case.
Harris’s one-year clock had already run by the time he filed his state habeas petition in the Supreme Court
of Virginia; therefore, his state petition afforded him no tolling under § 2244(d)(2).
prevented him from complying with the statutory time limit, despite his exercise of “reasonable
diligence in investigating and bringing the claims.” Harris, 209 F.3d at 330 (citing Miller v. N.J.
State Dep’t of Corrs., 145 F.3d 616, 618 (3d Cir. 1998)). An inmate asserting equitable tolling
“‘bears a strong burden to show specific facts’” that demonstrate he fulfills both elements of the
test. Yang v. Archuleta, 525 F.3d 925, 928 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Brown v. Barrow, 512 F.3d
1304, 1307 (11th Cir. 2008)). Generally, the petitioner is obliged to specify “‘the steps he took
to diligently pursue his federal claims.’” Id. at 930 (quoting Miller v. Marr, 141 F.3d 976, 978
Despite being given the opportunity to argue the timeliness of his petition, Harris does
not allege any ground that warrants equitable tolling. Harris filed his federal habeas petition
more than one year after the judgment became final; thus, the court dismisses his petition as
untimely filed. See Hill, 277 F.3d at 707 (4th Cir. 2002) (recognizing a district court may
summarily dismiss a § 2254 petition if a petitioner fails to make the requisite showing of
timeliness after the court notifies petitioner that the petition appears untimely and allows an
opportunity to provide any argument and evidence).
Entered: November 14, 2017.
/s/ Elizabeth K. Dillon
Elizabeth K. Dillon
United States District Judge
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?