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United States v. Chandler

September 20, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. PAUL EICHWEDEL, PETITIONER,
v.
NEDRA CHANDLER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Respondent Nedra Chandler has moved to dismiss as untimely the pro se habeas corpus petition filed by Paul Eichwedel. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Chandler's motion.

Facts

In 1995, a Cook County jury convicted Eichwedel of first degree murder and solicitation to commit murder. A judge sentenced him to consecutive prison terms of fifty years for murder and twenty-five years for solicitation. On March 31, 1999, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the first degree murder conviction and sentence but vacated the solicitation conviction and sentence. On February 2, 2000, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Eichwedel's petition for leave to appeal (PLA), and on January 8, 2001, the United States Supreme Court denied his petition for certiorari.

On December 13, 1998, while his direct appeal was pending, Eichwedel filed a pro se post-conviction petition. See Resp. Ex. H. The trial court appointed counsel, who filed a supplemental petition. See Resp. Ex. I. The trial court dismissed the petition on February 8, 2006. Eichwedel appealed, and the Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal of the petition on February 19, 2008. See Resp. Ex. C.

On March 9, 2008, Eichwedel, acting pro se, mailed a motion to the Illinois Supreme Court asking for a two-month extension of time to file a PLA. A PLA is due thirty-five days after the decision of the Illinois Appellate Court, which in Eichwedel's case made the due date March 25, 2008. Eichwedel asked the court to extend the date to May 26, 2008. See Resp. Ex. M. In his motion, Eichwedel stated that he was in the process of preparing a petition for mandamus and a petition for habeas corpus to file with the Supreme Court, as well as a federal habeas corpus petition (unrelated to the present one) and a brief in a different appeal. Id. ¶¶ 3-5. He also stated that due to the voluminous nature of the record in his criminal case, his access to the record was limited by prison rules, and that this and cutbacks in prison legal staff hindered his ability to file a timely PLA. Id. ¶¶ 6-11.

The Clerk of the Supreme Court mailed Eichwedel a letter dated March 28, 2008. Resp. Ex. N. The letter stated, in pertinent part:

You have been given by the Court until April 29, 2008, to file a timely petition for leave to appeal. It is suggested that your petition should contain a detailed statement of the facts concerning your case, such as indictment number, crime, date and length of sentence, and a detailed argument stating the reasons why you feel you are entitled to review by the Supreme Court. A copy of the Appellate Court decision and, if applicable, the order denying your petition for rehearing should be attached to your material, all of which should then be forwarded to this office as soon as possible.

In the event your petition is not timely, you should include with your petition a motion for leave to file a late petition for leave to appeal, explaining the reasons why you were unable to timely file. Id. (emphasis in original).

Eichwedel did not file a PLA by the new deadline of April 29, 2008. On July 24, 2008, he mailed to the Illinois Supreme Court a motion for leave to file a late PLA, along with his proposed PLA. See Resp. Ex. O. The proposed PLA was 119 pages long. As grounds for late filing, Eichwedel argued that the appeal was complex and the record exceeded 8,000 pages; he had no formal legal training; his access to his legal materials was restricted as argued in his earlier motion; and law library staff had not granted his request for additional access despite his filing deadline for the PLA. Id. ¶¶ 1-6. As a result, Eichwedel stated, he had to work on his PLA "in piecemeal fashion," which contributed to the delay. Id. ¶ 7. He also said that his requests for access to the law library had been denied contrary to law library policies and that his grievances regarding these actions had produced no results. Id. ¶¶ 8-10. Eichwedel attached exhibits to his motion supporting his contentions regarding access to his legal materials and the law library.

On September 12, 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order stating that "[t]he motion by petitioner for leave to file a late petition for leave to appeal is allowed and is treated as a petition for leave to appeal." Resp. Ex. P (emphasis in original). The Supreme Court denied the PLA on November 26, 2008. See Resp. Ex.

Q: It appears that Eichwedel filed a motion for reconsideration, but the Clerk rejected this on the ground that Eichwedel first had to seek leave of court to file such a motion. See Resp. Ex. R at Ex. B (Supreme Court Clerk's letter dated December 29, 2008).

Eichwedel then filed a motion for leave to file a motion to reconsider, which he mailed to the Supreme Court on January 12, 2009. See Resp. Ex. R. The Supreme Court denied the motion on February 9, 2009. See Resp. Ex. S.

Eichwedel mailed his habeas corpus petition to this Court on November 25, 2009. The Clerk received the ...


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