United States District Court, D. New Jersey
BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI United States District Judge
this Court is the Amended Petition for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus (the “Amended Petition”) of Petitioner
Tormu Prall (“Petitioner”), brought pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 8.) On January 10, 2017, this
Court entered an Order directing Petitioner to show cause why
the Amended Petition should not be dismissed with prejudice
as time-barred. (ECF No 9.) On January 23, 2017, Petitioner
filed a response to that Order. (ECF No. 10.) For the reasons
set forth below, the Amended Petition is DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE as time-barred.
to the Amended Petition and Petitioner's response to the
Order to Show Cause, on February 5, 2010, Petitioner was
sentenced to a ten-year sentence for aggravated assault and
eluding and resisting arrest. (ECF No. 8 at 2; ECF No. 10 at
2.) Petitioner appealed, and the New Jersey Appellate
Division affirmed his sentence on July 6, 2011. (ECF No. 8 at
3; ECF No. 10 at 2.) Petitioner thereafter filed a petition
for certification with the New Jersey Supreme Court, which
was denied on December 1, 2011. State v. Prall, 208 N.J.
600 (2011). Petitioner does not appear to have petitioned the
United States Supreme Court for certiorari; thus, for statute
of limitations purposes, his conviction became final ninety
(90) days later, on February 29, 2012, i.e. the
“date on which the judgment became final by the
conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for
seeking such review including the 90-day period for filing a
petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme
Court.” Figueroa v. Buechele, Civ. No.
15-1200, 2015 WL 1403829, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 25, 2015).
than fifteen (15) months later, on June 11, 2013, Petitioner
filed his petition for post-conviction relief
(“PCR”) in state court. (ECF No. 8 at 4; ECF No.
10 at 2.) Petitioner's PCR petition remained pending in
the state courts until certification was denied on that
petition on September 23, 2016. State v. Prall, 2016
WL 5865045 (Sept. 23, 2016). He filed this petition for writ
of habeas corpus six (6) days later, on September 29, 2016.
(ECF No. 1 at 1.)
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), a district court “shall
entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus [o]n
behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a
State court only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States.” Petitioner has the burden of
establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim
presented in his Amended Petition based upon the record that
was before the state court. See Eley v. Erickson,
712 F.3d 837, 846 (3d Cir. 2013). Pursuant to Rule 4 of the
Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, the Court is required to
screen the Amended Petition to determine whether it
“plainly appears from the petition and any attached
exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief.” Under this Rule, the Court is
“authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition
that appears legally insufficient on its face.”
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994).
the Amended Petition is brought pursuant to § 2254, it
is subject to a one-year statute of limitations. See
Figueroa, 2015 WL 1403829, at *2. In this case, the
one-year statute of limitations began to run on February 29,
2012, the “date on which the judgment became final by
the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time
for seeking such review including the 90-day period for
filing a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States
Supreme Court.” Id. Therefore, because
Petitioner's original petition in this matter was not
submitted until September 29, 2016, this action was filed
outside the applicable statute of limitations.
one-year statute of limitations, however, is subject to
statutory tolling, which automatically applies to the period
of time during which a petitioner has a properly filed PCR
petition pending in the state courts. Figueroa, 2015
WL 1403829 at *2. By Petitioner's own admission, he did
not file his PCR petition in state court until June 11, 2013,
more than three (3) months after the expiration of the
one-year limitations period. (ECF No. 8 at 4.) Therefore, as
the Court explained in the January 10, 2017 Order to Show
Cause, statutory tolling is of no benefit to Petitioner,
unless Petitioner can show that he is entitled to equitable
tolling of the statute of limitations for at least the three
(3) months between March 1, 2013 and June 11, 2013.
(See ECF No. 8 at 3); see also Long v.
Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 394-95 (3d Cir. 2004) (no
statutory tolling results if a PCR application is filed more
than a year after the litigant's judgment became final);
Schlueter v. Varner, 384 F.3d 69, 78-79 (3d Cir.
tolling “is a remedy which should be invoked
‘only sparingly.'” United States v.
Bass, 268 F. App'x 196, 199 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting
United States v. Midgley, 142 F.3d 174, 179 (3d Cir.
1998)). To receive the benefit of equitable tolling,
Petitioner must show “(1) that he faced
‘extraordinary circumstances that stood in the way of
timely filing, ' and (2) that he exercised reasonable
diligence.” United States v. Johnson, 590 F.
App'x 176, 179 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Pabon v.
Mahanoy, 654 F.3d 385, 399 (3d Cir. 2011)). Petitioner
fails to provide a basis for equitable tolling in both the
Amended Petition and his response to the Order to Show Cause.
Instead, Petitioner argues in his response that, pursuant to
the Supreme Court's decision in Wall v. Kholi,
562 U.S. 545 (2011), his one-year limitations period was
tolled throughout the entire five-year period during which he
could have filed his PCR petition under New Jersey Court Rule
3:22-12. See N.J. Court Rules, R. 3:22-12 (requiring
that all PCR petitions be filed within five (5) years of the
date of conviction). Petitioner, however, misreads the
holding of Wall.
question before the Supreme Court in Wall was not
whether the habeas limitations period was tolled while a
petitioner was entitled to file a petition for review in
state court but did not. Instead, Wall addressed
whether or not Rhode Island's equivalent to a Rule 35
motion qualified as a form of collateral review.
Wall, 562 U.S. at 549-61. Indeed, the Supreme Court
reiterated in Wall that a petitioner is generally
required to file his “federal habeas petition . . .
within one year of the date on which the judgment became
final by the conclusion of direct review. But the 1-year
limitation period is tolled during the pendency of a properly
filed application for State post-conviction or other
collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or
claim.” Id. at 549 (internal citations and
quotations omitted). Because the statutory tolling is tied to
“the pendency of a properly filed application, ”
it only applies for the period of time between the filing of
such an application and its ultimate conclusion in the state
courts. See Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631,
635-37, (2010) (calculating statutory tolling from date PRC
motion is filed in state court until date of final state
court decision). Nothing in Wall suggests, let alone
holds, the one-year limitations period is tolled throughout
the entire time during which a petitioner could file
a collateral attack on his conviction. Wall, 562
U.S. at 549-61. Instead, such tolling only applies after a
collateral review petition has been filed and while it
remains pending in the state courts. Wall,
therefore, provides no support for Petitioner's assertion
that he was entitled to tolling for the entire five-year
period in which he could have filed a PCR petition, nor the
assertion that the one-year period restarts once a PCR
petition runs its course.
explained above, Petitioner's conviction became final on
February 29, 2012. His one-year statute of limitations had
therefore expired as of March 1, 2013, several months before
the date on which Petitioner asserts he filed his PCR
petition. (See ECF No. 10). Consequently,
Petitioner's one-year statute of limitations expired
before he filed his PCR petition in the state courts. The
filing of his PCR petition did not toll or restart the
already expired limitations period. See Long, 393
F.3d at 394-95; Schlueter, 384 F.3d at 78-79.
Petitioner has asserted no other basis for the equitable
tolling of the limitations period, and this Court perceives
no basis for such tolling, based on Petitioner's filings.
Petitioner's habeas petition is thus clearly time-barred,
and is dismissed with prejudice.