United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION & ORDER
matter comes before the court on the motion of the defendant,
Miguel Figueroa, for an extension of the one-year deadline to
file his motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons stated herein, I
find that the § 2255 motion was filed timely. In
response to my order that the government state its legal
position as to the issue of timeliness in this pro
se case, I received what amounted to a back-of-the-hand.
To be clear, I do not suggest that the circumstances suggest
anything beyond onetime carelessness, but I will expect
better in the future.
Figueroa was indicted on a single count of being a felon in
possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g). On January 12, 2016, the defendant waived a jury
trial and the court adjudged him guilty on stipulated facts.
(DE 29, 30) The purpose of that procedure was to preserve for
appeal the issue of the court's denial of his motions to
suppress evidence, which had been the subject of an
evidentiary hearing. Final judgment was entered on June 2,
2016, and the defendant was sentenced to 65 months'
imprisonment. (DE 32, 33)
filed a timely notice of appeal. (DE 34) I appointed new
counsel for that purpose. (DE 36) In die Court of Appeals,
new counsel filed an Anders brief, and the defendant
filed his own pro se brief, which the court
considered. In an unpublished opinion dated April 19, 2017,
the Court of Appeals found the appeal of denial of the
suppression motion to be frivolous and granted counsel's
motion to withdraw. (See copy of decision at ¶
42-2.) The Court of Appeals' mandate issued on May 11,
2017. (DE 42)
24, 2018, Figueroa filed a § 2255 motion, together with
a motion for leave to file it out of time. (DE 43) The
extension motion cited medical grounds, as well as a transfer
between institutions and frequent lockdowns, as justification
for the delay. (DE 43-2)
order dated August 20, 2018, I ordered that the government
file a response to the extension motion. (DE 44) After
obtaining a 30-day extension, the government filed a short
letter noting that the limitations period under § 2255
is one year, and that Figueroa's motion was filed more
than one year after the Court of Appeals' judgment of
affirmance, dated April 19, 2017. (DE 46)
knew. I see at least three unaddressed issues here, however.
the conviction, although affirmed by the Court of Appeals,
did not become "final" for these purposes until the
expiration of the deadline to seek a writ of certiorari from
the U.S. Supreme Court. Clay v. United States, 537
U.S. 522, 532, 123 S.Ct. 1072, 1079 (2003) ("We hold
that, for federal criminal defendants who do not file a
petition for certiorari with this Court on direct review,
§ 2255's one-year limitation period starts to run
when the time for seeking such review expires."). That
deadline to seek certiorari expires 90 days after the Court
of Appeals enters judgment, with irrelevant exceptions.
See U.S. Sup. Ct. R. 13(1).
date that the Court of Appeals entered judgment (April 19,
2017) plus 90 days comes out to Tuesday, July 18, 2017. The
one-year limitation period therefore expired on July 18,
2018-a mere six days before the § 2255 motion was
actually received and filed by the clerk on July 24, 2018.
(DE 43; see also clerk's "Received"
stamp, DE 43-6.)
the government's submission did not consider the effect
of the "prison mailbox rule." Houston v.
Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-71, 108 S.Ct. 2379, 2382-83
(1988). Houston recognized the quandary of pro
se prisoners who cannot ensure that the court clerk will
timely receive their notices of appeal. A prisoner, the Court
explained, "has no choice but to entrust the forwarding
of his notice of appeal to prison authorities whom he cannot
control or supervise and who may have every incentive to
delay." Id. at 271, 108 S.Ct. at 2382.
Houston therefore promulgated a rule that a notice
of appeal would be deemed filed on the date that the prisoner
delivered it to the prison authorities for mailing. See
also Fed. R. App. P. 4(c) (amended to comply with
Houston as to notices of appeal).
years ago, the Third Circuit extended the Houston
prison mailbox rule to the one-year AEDPA deadline for
motions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255:
[W]e hold that a pro se prisoner's habeas petition is
deemed filed at the moment he delivers it to prison officials
for mailing to the district court. And because we see no
reason why federal prisoners should not benefit from such a
rule, and for the purposes of clarity and uniformity, we
extend this holding to the filing of motions under §
Bums v. Morton, 134 F.3d 109, 113 (3d Cir. 1998).
would not be unusual for six days to pass between delivery of
papers to die prison authorities and their receipt by the
clerk in the mail. I note also that this motion necessarily
originated at FCI Berlin in New Hampshire, and that the
postmark, applied at Kearny, New Jersey, seems to be
"Thu 19 Jul 2018." (Envelope, DE
43-6) If that reading is ...