Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gonzalez v. Thaler case brief

Gonzalez v. Thaler
132 S. Ct. 641

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied habeas relief, finding petitioner inmate's petition time-barred under 28 U.S.C.S. § 2244(d)(1)(A) in that his conviction became final when the time expired for seeking discretionary review and a later mandate's issuance was irrelevant. Certiorari was granted on whether the Fifth Circuit had jurisdiction notwithstanding a 28 U.S.C.S. § 2253(c)(3) defect, and if the petition was time barred.

OVERVIEW: The certificate of appealability (COA) identified a debatable procedural ruling, but did not "indicate" the issue on which a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right had been made, as required by § 2253(c)(3). Since § 2253(c)(3) was nonjurisdictional, that defect did not deprive the Court of Appeals of jurisdiction over the appeal. Section 2253(c)(3) was nonjurisdictional. The contrast between § 2253(a), (b), (c)(1), showed that a failure to obtain a COA was jurisdictional, while a COA's failure to indicate an issue was not. Because the inmate did not appeal to the State's highest court, under § 2244(d)(1)(A), his judgment was final when his time for seeking review with the State's highest court expired. Nothing in § 2244(d)(1)(A) contemplated a conflict between the "conclusion of direct review" and the "expiration of the time for seeking such review," much less instructed that the later of the two was to prevail. An inability to initiate state habeas proceedings during Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 11.07, § 3(a) (2011)'s six weeks did not preclude timely seeking federal relief. Thus, those six weeks were not added to the § 2244(d)(1)(A) time limit.

OUTCOME: The Court of Appeals' denial of habeas relief was affirmed. 8-1 Decision; 1 Dissent.

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