Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Prison Mailbox" Rule Applies to State Coram Nobis Petition for Tolling Purposes under § 2244(d)(1)

Fernandez v. Artuz, Docket No. 03-2541 (2d Cir. March 17, 2005) (Jacobs, Sotomayor, Hall) (Op. by Jacobs): In this interesting opinion, the Circuit ruled that the "prison mailbox rule", which deems a document filed by a pro se prisoner "filed" as of the time the prisoner delivers it to prison authorities for mailing (rather than the time it is received by the court), can be applied to New York State coram nobis petitions for purposes of tolling § 2254's 1-year statute of limitations. I will spare everyone the details of the case, which boil down to the fact if the prison mail box rule does not apply to petitioner's coram nobis petition, his subsequent § 2254 petition would be untimely.

Although the Second Circuit has applied the prison mailbox rule in a variety of contexts, it had not done so to determine when a coram nobis petition was "properly filed" pursuant to AEDPA's tolling provisions. And because New York State generally does not apply the prison mailbox rule, see 22 N.Y.C.R.R. § 600.2(a)(6) (a motion "shall be considered filed only upon receipt"), and because some circuits have interpreted the term "properly filed" as synonymous with "filed in accordance with state law," this case presented a close question.

The Court ultimately ruled in favor of applying the prison mailbox rule here because New York State prescribes no deadline for filing coram nobis petitions. E.g., People v. Langfelt, 249 N.Y.S.2d 949 (App. Div. 1964). And "[w]ithout a time limitation, a prisoner's state coram nobis petition will always be timely regardless of when it is delivered to prison authorities or received by the court." Op. at 13. Because "[t]here is no and can be no real conflict between state law and federal law where there is no state deadline for filing the petition that tolls the AEDPA limitations period," the Court thus applied the federal prison mailbox rule to determine when a coram nobis petition is "properly filed" for purposes of tolling AEDPA's statute of limitations. Id. at 13-14.

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