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United States ex rel. Williams v. Pfister

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 1, 2015

RANDY PFISTER, Warden, Pontiac Correctional Center, Respondent

          Kevin A. Williams, Petitioner, Pro se, Pontiac, IL.


         Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge.

         Several of the memorandum orders and memorandum opinions that this Court has been compelled to write in this 28 U.S.C. § 2254[1] action brought by pro se prisoner Kevin Williams (" Williams" ) have had occasion to refer to it as " snake bitten" -- an apt characterization stemming from the hitches and glitches that have delayed the ability to address its viability. That was a natural source of concern to this Court lest the delay in arriving at a possible determination that Williams' Section 2254 petition (the " Petition" ) properly called for relief could mean that his time behind bars had been longer than would have been the case if the merits of his contentions had been dealt with earlier.

         Any such concerns have been eliminated by the recently received response that has been filed by the Illinois Attorney General's Office in compliance with this Court's July 14, 2015 opinion that directed such a response pursuant to Rule 5 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (" Section 2254 Rules" ). But that elimination provides cold comfort to Williams, for that response -- a " Motion To Dismiss as Time-Barred" -- has shown the Petition to be untimely and therefore as calling for its dismissal.

Page 847

          Because the Petition's untimeliness results from a disqualification of two of Williams' state court post-conviction efforts as limitations-tolling events under Section 2244(d)(2), it makes sense to look at those efforts first. Then, once those efforts have been eliminated from consideration, the interaction between the one-year limitation period prescribed by Section 2244(d)(1) and the limitations-tolling period prescribed by Section 2244(d)(2) becomes a simple matter.

         Section 2244(d)(2) reads:

The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.

         And although a casual reading of that section might not focus primarily on the words " properly filed application" in ascertaining whether any given post-conviction effort does or does not toll the running of limitations, the caselaw teaches otherwise.

         Thus Williams' October 2009 filing of a proposed successive post-conviction petition was rejected -- that is, leave to file that petition was denied -- by the state Circuit Court, with that denial then being affirmed on appeal and with the Illinois Supreme Court then having ultimately denied leave to file a late petition for leave to appeal the affirmance on January 30, 2014. That history unquestionably disqualified the proposed successive petition as not having been " properly filed" -- as the per curiam opinion in Martinez v. Jones, 556 F.3d 637, 638-39 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted) has expressly reconfirmed:

Martinez argues that his § 2254 petition is not untimely because his successive petition for postconviction relief tolled his federal statute of limitations. But we have clearly held that where state law requires pre-filing authorization -- such as an application for permission to file a successive petition -- simply taking steps to fulfill this requirement does not toll the statute of limitations. Instead the second petition tolls the limitations period only if the state court grants permission to file it.

         That fate also befalls Williams' December 12, 2011 petition for relief from judgment under 735 ILCS 5/2-1401. After that petition was denied because (in addition to its substantive problems) it was untimely, that dismissal was upheld and the Illinois Supreme Court then denied leave to appeal. That sequence rendered the petition not " properly filed" for tolling purposes under the conclusive holding in Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 414, 125 S.Ct. 1807, 161 L.Ed.2d 669 (2005), reiterated in identical language a few years later in the per curiam opinion in Allen v. Siebert, 552 U.S. 3, 7, 128 S.Ct. 2, 169 L.Ed.2d 329 (2007) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted):

When a postconviction petition is untimely under state law, that is the end of the matter for purposes of § 2244(d)(2).

         And for that purpose the " end of the matter" is literally true -- it is irrelevant that, as in this case, the state courts also considered the merits of Williams' claims (Pace, 544 U.S. at 413-14, reconfirming the principle announced in Carey v. ...

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