Sossa v. Diaz

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 09-10-2013
  • Case #: 10-56104
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge Watford and District Judge Kennelly
  • Full Text Opinion

A pro se habeas petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling if he reasonably relied on a magistrate judge's order extending his filing deadline beyond AEDPA's statutory time limitation; and when a pro se habeas petitioner sufficiently alleges that precluded access to legal resources due to extraordinary circumstances beyond his control prevented timely filing and permits equitable tolling, the district court is obligated to review new evidence and rule on the merits.

Armando Jose Sosa's second degree robbery conviction became final under the one-year limitations period of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A) on January 31, 2006. He filed three pro se habeas petitions to vacate his conviction and sentence, the last of which was denied on February 13, 2008 after a complete round of state collateral review. Sossa filed his fourth habeas petition in district court on February 24th but failed to include the attachment wherein he enumerated specific claims for relief, and was dismissed with leave to file his First Amended Petition ("FAP") by April 11. Due to prison lock-downs and inaccessible library hours, the magistrate judge granted time extension through June 9th. Sossa filed the FAP on June 11th, for which the magistrate reported and recommended ("R&R") dismissal with prejudice as untimely, because absent any tolling, Sossa's deadline was May 24th, and even though the February 24th petition was timely, the FAP was 18-days late, failed to "relate back" to the original, and Sossa was ineligible for equitable tolling for precluded access to legal resources. The district court dismissed the FAP with prejudice, refused to consider Sossa's argument that he relied on the extension, and absent review of further evidence that he could not access the library, concluded his arguments for equitable tolling failed. The Ninth Circuit found Sossa reasonably relied on the extension and applied equitable tolling to reverse the dismissal, and remanded for further development on the record whether Sossa is entitled to statutory and/or gap tolling for the state collateral proceedings and equitable tolling. Sossa sufficiently alleged precluded access to legal resources prevents timely filing and permits equitable tolling, and it is an abuse of discretion to not consider a pro se habeas petitioner's novel claim on the merits. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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