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Hatch v. New Jersey Superior Court

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 1, 2017

WILLIE E. HATCH, Petitioner,
v.
NEW JERSEY SUPERIOR COURT, et al., Respondents. Appeal No. 17-1338 (3d Cir.)

          Willie E. Hatch, Petitioner pro se.

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This Court dismissed Petitioner Willie E. Hatch's amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus as time-barred on January 25, 2016. Dismissal Opinion and Order [Docket Entries 11-12]. He filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Court denied on March 23, 2016. Opinion and Order Denying Reconsideration [Docket Entries 18-19].

         Before the Court now is Petitioner's motion to file an out of time notice of appeal. Motion [Docket Entry 25]. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was tried before a jury and was convicted of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-2(a); second-degree sexual assault, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-2(c); and second-degree child endangerment, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:24-4(a), for acts committed against his fourteen-year-old stepson. See State v. W.H., No. A-0948-11, 2012 WL 6698694, at *1 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Dec. 27, 2012). His direct appeal concluded when the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on January 20, 2009. State v. W.H., 963 A.2d 845 (N.J. 2009).

         Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in the state courts. The PCR court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing on March 7, 2011, and the Appellate Division affirmed that court's judgment. W.H., supra, No. A-0948-11. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on June 28, 2013. State v. W.H., 67 A.3d 1192 (N.J. 2013). More than 20 months after exhaustion of his State PCR remedies, Petitioner handed his § 2254 petition to prison officials for mailing on March 14, 2015. Petition [Docket Entry 1 at 16].

         Upon initial review of this petition, the Honorable Renée Marie Bumb, U.S.D.J., [1] noted that on its face, it appeared the petition was untimely under the limitations period of 28 U.S.C. § 2244. Judge Bumb ordered Petitioner to submit a written statement “asserting any basis upon which the statute of limitations may properly be tolled or any facts establishing that the statute of limitations did not expire on or before June 29, 2014[.]” May 11, 2015 Order [Docket Entry 3 at 2]. Petitioner did not comply with the order, and on June 12, 2015, Judge Bumb administratively terminated the proceedings in order to give Petitioner one final chance to submit a written statement on timeliness. June 12, 2015 Order, Docket Entry 5.

         Petitioner submitted an amended petition on July 15, 2015 arguing he could not file a timely habeas petition because he was placed into administrative segregation for 280 days and he “had no way of knowing time sequences [sic] of filing appeals.” Amended Petition at 23. After reviewing the documents provided by Petitioner in light of the applicable law, this Court determined the petition was time-barred and that the facts did not warrant the application of equitable tolling. The Court therefore dismissed the petition as untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Dismissal Opinion and Order filed January 26, 2016 [Docket Entries 11 & 12].

         On February 5, 2016, the Court received a letter from Petitioner objecting to the application of the statute of limitations. February 5 Letter [Docket Entry 13]. On March 7, 2016, the Court ordered the letter to be designated as a motion for reconsideration and the case to be reopened for review of the motion. [Docket Entry 14]. The Court subsequently received two letters from Petitioner with attempted explanations as to why his § 2254 petition was filed late. March 12 and 11, 2016 Letters [Docket Entries 15 and 16]. The Court denied the motion for reconsideration on March 23, 2016. [Docket Entries 18 & 19]. More than ten months elapsed until February 10, 2017 when Petitioner filed a notice of appeal [Docket Entry 22]. The appeal was docketed as Hatch v. New Jersey Superior Court, No. 17-1338 (3d Cir. filed Feb. 14, 2017) [Docket Entry 23].

         On March 27, 2017, the Third Circuit transferred Petitioner's motion to file an out of time notice of appeal to this Court, and the Court reopened the matter for consideration of the motion [Docket Entries 24 & 25]. Petitioner states he is “a layman in the law and [has] absolutely no familiarity with the Rules of Court and any procedure associated with appealing the denial of [his] 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254 petition.” Motion ¶ 2. He argues “[t]he district court erred in denying [his] habeas petition and deeming it untimely. It failed to consider equittable [sic] tolling principles.” Id. ¶ 4.

         III. DISCUSSION

         “[T]he taking of an appeal within the prescribed time is mandatory and jurisdictional.” Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205, 209 (2007) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Petitioner was required to file a notice of appeal within 30 days after this Court denied the motion to reconsideration on March 23, 2016, i.e., by April 22, 2016. Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A). Petitioner filed his notice ...


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