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Knight v. Warren

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 7, 2014

JAMES KNIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
CHARLES WARREN, et al., Respondents.

OPINION

RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Petitioner's motion, see Docket Entry No. 11, seeking reconsideration of this Court's prior Opinions and Orders.

Upon Petitioner's submission of his § 2254 petition, the Court reviewed the same and noted the unusually lengthy period of Petitioner's post-conviction relief ("PCR") process. Reading that jointly with the long gap between Petitioner's completion of the PCR process and his filing of the Petition at bar, the Court - in order to verify the timeliness of the Petition - directed Petitioner to clarify when his PCR appeals at the Appellate Division and the Supreme Court of New Jersey were "properly filed" and "pending."[1]

Because Petitioner failed to respond to the Court's directive, the Court dismissed the Petition as untimely. See Docket Entries Nos. 8 and 9. Upon the Court's entry of that ruling, Petitioner filed the motion at bar, see Docket Entry No. 11, and accompanied it by his response, see Docket Entry No. 10 ("Response"), addressing the Court's directive, which, by then was untimely.

Petitioner's Response addressed solely the issue of his delay in filing his PCR appeal with the Appellate Division, leaving the issue of whether there was a delay in Petitioner's filing of his application for PCR certification with the Supreme Court of New Jersey unaddressed. However, the information provided in the Response, albeit incomplete, is sufficient for this Court to rule on Petitioner's motion, without reaching and ruling on the facts that might be associated with the final stage of Petitioner's PCR process.

In his Response, Petitioner stated:

On November 15, 2005, after [using] 32 days [of his one-year AEDPA period], Petitioner filed [his PCR with the Law Division], thereby [statutorily] tolling [his] one-year [AEDPA period. That]... PCR [application] was denied by [the Law Division on] May 15, 2009.... [O]n October 7, 2009, [that is, more than four and a half months later], Petitioner filed a notice of appeal [with the Appellate Division. Because the notice of appeal was not filed within the 45-day time limit [i.e., ] before June 29, 2009, ... Petitioner concedes [that, unless his AEDPA] one-year [period] was not [deemed] tolled during [the resulting] 99-day [delay] [his § 2254] petition [is] untimely. However, [he maintains that this 99-day period should be included in the statutory tolling because] the... Appellate Division granted [his nunc pro tunc] motion.... [He maintains that, ] if New Jersey courts have decided to [grant his nunc pro tunc motion, this Court] should respect that decision by [granting him statutory] tolling.... Alternatively, if [he] is not entitled to statutory tolling, [he] asserts that he is entitled to equitable tolling [because, if Appellate Division granted his nunc pro tunc motion, it must mean that he] exercised the requisite level of diligence required for the purposes of equitable tolling. [He also maintains he was subjected to] extraordinary circumstance [since the Office of Public Defender experienced] backlog, staff reduction and an overwhelming caseload, all circumstances beyond Petitioner's control.

Docket Entry No. 10, at 2-5 (quotation marks omitted).

In addition, Petitioner conceded that:

[additional] 322 days [of Petitioner's AEDPA period] ran... between January 13, 2012, (when his PCR appeal became final) and November 30, 2012, when Petitioner handed his petition to prison officials.

Id. at 2, n.1.

Both Petitioner's arguments raised in the Response were expressly addressed and rejected, as meritless, by the Court of Appeals in its seminal Jenkins decision.

As the Jenkins Court pointed out:

[T]he nunc pro tunc title of [Petitioner's notice of PCR appeal was, de facto, ] a misnomer; in reality, [Petitioner filed [nothing but] a motion to extend [his] time to file a [notice] of appeal.... [While the state court] frequently grants... motions to extend the time to... appeal, which it sometimes characterizes as... nunc pro tunc [motions, Petitioner's PCR appeal] was not properly filed [and, thus, had no statutory tolling effect ...

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