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Garcia v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 20, 2019

VINICIO JESUS GARCIA, #1828198, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ORDER

          SAM A. LINDSAY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 26, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge David L. Horan entered the Findings, Conclusions and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge (“Report”), recommending that the court deny Petitioner's habeas petition because his two habeas claims are time-barred and not equitably tolled as follows:

Under Section 2244(d)(2), the one-year period to file a federal habeas petition was tolled from November 16, 2015 to July 13, 2016 the soonest date that Garcia could have his state habeas application to the date that the CCA [Texas Court of Criminal Appeals] denied that application. Adding these some 240 days to the one-year period that commenced on February 24, 2015 means that Garcia's Section 2254 application should have been filed before the end of October 2016.
[Garcia's habeas] application was not docketed in this Court until February 1, 2018. See Dkt. No. 1. Notably, Garcia appears to represent that he executed it on January 25, 2018. See Id. at 10. And he argues in that application, see id., and elsewhere, see generally Dkt. No. 21, that prison officials prevented the timely filing of his Section 2254 petition because he was denied an envelope (in April or May 2017) and because his belongings, including legal materials, were ransacked (in late November 2017).
First, to the extent that these contentions are made to assert statutory tolling under Section 2244(d)(1)(B), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that, in order to invoke statutory tolling based on an alleged government impediment, “the prisoner must show that: (1) he was prevented from filing a petition (2) by State action (3) in violation of the Constitution or federal law.” Egerton v. Cockrell, 334 F.3d 433, 436 (5th Cir. 2003). “These requirements imply an element of causality and materiality with respect to a prisoner's ability to file his . . . federal petition. Thus, [a petitioner] ‘must also show that . . . [the impediment] actually prevented him from timely filing his habeas petition.'” Clark v. United States, Nos. 3:13-cv-1851-N-BK & 3:92-cr-382-N-1, 2013 WL 5873294, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 1, 2013) (quoting Krause v. Thaler, 637 F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 2011); citations omitted; emphasis in Krause); see also Winkfield v. Bagley, 66 Fed.Appx. 578, 583 (6th Cir. 2003) (“Section 2244(d)(1)(B) requires a causal relationship between the unconstitutional state action and being prevented from filing the petition.” (quoting Dunker v. Bissonnette, 154 F.Supp.2d 95, 105 (D. Mass. 2001)).
Garcia has not made this showing. Nor has he made a showing that these claims support equitable tolling. His State-created-impediment assertions are conclusory, in that he fails to specify that (or how) the alleged actions were in violation of the Constitution or federal law and that these actions specifically prevented the timely filing of this petition. There is therefore no alleged causal relationship between the State action alleged and Garcia's being prevented from filing (much less timely filing) the Section 2254 petition. See, e.g., Alston v. Thomas, Civ. No. 11-00062 HG-BMK, 2011 WL 4929139, at *7 (D. Haw. Oct. 17, 2011) (“Neither Alston's inability to physically attend the law library during the 99 days that SCF was in lockdown in 2010, the lack of inmate or trained paralegal assistance, nor the alleged lack of pens, papers, envelopes, and stamps constituted State created impediments within the meaning of § 2244(d)(1)(B).”).
But, even if the Court accepts the earliest date that Garcia claims he attempted to mail the Section 2254 application April 20, 2017 see Dkt. No. 3 at 10, that date is still some 6 months too late. In sum, then, Garcia has not demonstrated that he is entitled to equitable tolling by showing that “rare, exceptional, or extraordinary circumstances beyond his control . . . made it impossible for him to timely file” his federal habeas application. Montes v. United States, Nos. 3:13-cv-1936-K & 3:09-cr-286- K (4), 2014 WL 5286608, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 15, 2014) (citations omitted); see also Menominee Indian Tribe [of Wis. v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 750, 755-56 (2016)]; Holland [v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (5th Cir. 2010)]; Farmer, [v. D&O Contractors, 640 Fed.Appx. 302, 307 (5th Cir. 2016) (per curiam)]

Report 5-7.

         Petitioner filed objections to the Report, which were docketed on October 10, 2018. Petitioner disagrees with the magistrate judge's calculation of the time during which his period for filing a federal habeas petition was tolled. In this regard, Petitioner asserts, under penalty of perjury, that, because he did not receive notice that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) had denied his state habeas application until March 31, 2017, more than eight months after it was denied, the time for filing his federal habeas petition was tolled until that date, not July 13, 2016, as determined by the magistrate judge. Petitioner, therefore, asserts that the tolling period was extended 261 days longer than the date determined by the magistrate judge. Petitioner also disagrees with the magistrate judge's determination that his assertions regarding a state-created impediment are conclusory and continues to maintain that, after learning his state habeas petition was denied, prison officials denied his requests for supplies needed to prepare his federal habeas petition and an envelope and stamps to mail his petition.

         The one-year limitations period for filing a federal habeas petition “is subject to equitable tolling only ‘in rare and exceptional circumstances.'” Hardy v. Quarterman, 577 F.3d 596, 598 (5th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). For equitable tolling to apply, “[a] petitioner's failure to satisfy the statute of limitations must result from external factors beyond his control; delays of the petitioner's own making do not qualify.” Id. (quoting In re Wilson, 442 F.3d 872, 875 (5th Cir. 2006)). This is because “equity is not intended for those who sleep on their rights.” Fisher v. Johnson, 174 F.3d 710, 715 (5th Cir. 1999). It is the petitioner's burden to establish that equitable tolling is justified under the circumstances. Hardy, 577 F.3d at 598 (citation omitted).

         “Equitable tolling applies principally where the plaintiff is actively misled by the defendant about the cause of action or is prevented in some extraordinary way from asserting his rights.” Melancon v. Kaylo, 259 F.3d 401, 408 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Rashidi v. American President Lines, 96 F.3d 124, 128 (5th Cir. 1996)). The TCCA is required “to notify a petitioner once a decision has been rendered on his habeas petition.” Hardy, 577 F.3d at 598 (citation omitted). Long delays in receiving notice that a decision has been rendered on a state habeas petition may entitle a petitioner to equitable tolling. Hardy, 577 F.3d at 598; Phillips v. Donnelly, 216 F.3d 508, 511 (5th Cir.), modified on reh'g, 223 F.3d 797 (5th Cir. 2000); see also Fisher, 174 F.3d at 715 (“In the right circumstances, a delay in receiving information might call for equitable tolling-such as if the prison did not obtain copies of AEDPA for months and months.”); but see Felder v. Johnson, 204 F.3d 168, 172 (5th Cir. 2000) (declining to follow foregoing quoted language in Fisher as dicta). Equitable tolling, however, only applies when a habeas petitioner diligently pursues habeas corpus relief “before and after receiving notification” of a decision on a state habeas petition. Hardy, 577 F.3d at 598 (citations omitted).

         In Hardy v. Quaterman, the Fifth Circuit addressed the timeliness of a petitioner's inquiry regarding the status of his habeas application. Id. at 598-99. The petitioner in Hardy did not receive notice of the TCCA's decision until almost a year later. Id. In determining whether the petitioner acted diligently, the Hardy court looked at two unpublished cases: Lewis v. Cockrell, 275 F.3d 46, 2001 WL 1267701 (5th Cir. Oct. 15, 2001); and Coker v. Quarterman, 270 Fed.Appx. 305, 2008 WL 724042 (5th Cir. March 17, 2008). Hardy, 577 F.3d at 599. The petitioner in Lewis waited approximately two and a half years before inquiring about the status of his state habeas petition, which was determined not to be diligent. Id. In contrast, the petitioner in Coker waited only eight months to inquire about the status of his case, and, after not hearing anything, inquired again a year later, which was determined to be diligent. Id. The petitioner in Hardy waited less than one year, approximately eleven months, before contacting the trial court, and this time period was also determined to be reasonable and diligent. Hardy, 577 F.3d at 599-600.

         In this case, Respondent submitted evidence that shows notification by the TCCA was sent to Garcia on July 13, 2016, at the Clements Unit where he is still housed. Resp't Ex. E. Petitioner, nevertheless, asserts in his federal habeas petition (Doc. 3) and unsworn affidavit (Doc. 8) and states in his sworn objections to the Report that he did not receive notice until March 31, 2017, approximately eight months later, because of ongoing problems with the prison's law library and mail room. Petitioner further states in his sworn objections that he first learned that his habeas petition was denied when the TCCA responded to “[his] motion for stay and abeyance to file an amended 11.07 [habeas application].” Obj. 2.

         In response to Petitioner's federal habeas application, Respondent argues that Petitioner's complaints regarding access to mail and supplies beginning in March 2017 are insufficient because they do not account for the untimeliness of his federal habeas petition that was due several months earlier by October 12, 2016, [1] and, thus, could not have prevented him from filing timely a federal habeas petition. Respondent further contends that Petitioner's allegation that he did not receive notice of the TCCA's denial of his state habeas application until March 31, 2017, are similarly unavailing and do not entitle him to ...


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