United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
VERNELL D. WILLIAMS, Movant,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. (Criminal, 1:07:CR:249)
OPINION REGARDING EQUITABLE TOLLING
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to the Court's May 10, 2017, Order to Show Cause, Movant,
Vernell Williams, has filed a response stating why he
believes he is entitled to equitable tolling. As noted in the
May 10, 2017, Order, Williams's § 2255 Motion is
untimely by more than five years.
Sixth Circuit has held that the doctrine of equitable tolling
is applicable to § 2255 motions. See Dunlap v.
United States, 250 F.3d 1001, 1004-05 (6th Cir. 2001)
(holding that § 2255(f) is not jurisdictional in nature
and that equitable tolling is available). Pursuant to the
doctrine of equitable tolling, a court may excuse late-filed
habeas claims in appropriate circumstances. McCray v.
Vasbinder, 499 F.3d 568, 571 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing
Souter v. Jones, 395 F.3d 577, 588 (6th Cir. 2005)).
Equitable tolling is “available only in compelling
circumstances which justify a departure from established
procedures.” Puckett v. Tenn. Eastman Co., 889
F.2d 1481, 1488 (6th Cir. 1989). The doctrine is “used
sparingly by federal courts. ‘Typically, equitable
tolling applies only when a litigant's failure to meet a
legally-mandated deadline unavoidably arose from
circumstances beyond the litigant's control.'”
Jurado v. Burt, 337 F.2d 638, 642 (6th Cir. 2003)
(quoting Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of
Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 560-61 (6th Cir. 2000))
(citations omitted). “[A] ‘petitioner' is
‘entitled to equitable tolling' only if he shows
‘(1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently,
and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his
way' and prevented timely filing.” Holland v.
Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649, 130 S.Ct. 2549, 2562 (2010)
(quoting Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418, 125
S.Ct. 1807, 1814 (2005)).
determining whether to apply equitable tolling, a court
should consider the following factors: “(1) the
petitioner's lack of notice of the filing requirement;
(2) the petitioner's lack of constructive knowledge of
the filing requirement; (3) diligence in pursuing one's
rights; (4) absence of prejudice to the respondent; and (5)
the petitioner's reasonableness in remaining ignorant of
the legal requirement for filing his claim.”
Solomon v. United States, 467 F.3d 928, 923 (6th
Cir. 2006) (citing Dunlap, 250 F.3d at 1008,
adopting factors set forth in Andrews v. Orr, 851
F.2d 146, 151 (6th Cir. 1988)). These factors are not
necessarily comprehensive, nor is each factor relevant in
every case. Id.
argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling because: (1)
he only recently became aware of the facts and legal
arguments set forth in his § 2255 Motion; (2) he is
untrained in the law and has been unable to obtain legal
assistance in preparing his § 2255 Motion; (3) the
facility at which he is incarcerated does not have properly
working typewriters, computers, or a copier, that would
enable him to access legal materials for his argument; (4) he
was afforded limited hours in the law library; and (5) his
previous attempt to form his arguments for his § 2255
with the assistance of a legal writer resulted in countless
hours of work being discarded when Williams learned that the
legal writer “was not as versed in the law as he had
led [Williams] to believe he was.” (ECF No. 11 at
reasons Williams offers for equitable tolling fail to support
the application of the doctrine. The fact that a movant is
untrained in the law, denied access to a law library, was
proceeding without a lawyer, or may have been unaware of the
statute of limitations for a certain period does not warrant
tolling. See Allen v. Yukins, 366 F.3d 396, 403 (6th
Cir. 2004); Brown v. United States, No. 01-1481,
2001 WL 1136000, at *3 (6th Cir. Sept. 21, 2001) (citing
United States v. Baker, 197 F.3d 211, 218-19 (6th
Cir. 1999)); Fisher v. Johnson, 174 F.3d 710, 714-15
(5th Cir. 1999). As one district court in the Sixth Circuit
has noted, “[c]ourts in this circuit have consistently
found that extraordinary circumstances, justifying equitable
tolling, do not exist simply because a petitioner: (1) is
untrained or ignorant of the law; (2) reads and writes
poorly; (3) does not have access to or cannot afford
professional legal assistance; or (3) [sic] received bad
legal assistance.” Boylen v. Hudson, No.
5:07CV1697, 2008 WL 3822291, at *7 (N.D. Ohio May 15, 2008)
addition, Williams has failed to show that some extraordinary
circumstance precluded him from filing a timely § 2255
Motion. The frivolous lawsuit Williams filed in this district
and his numerous filings in his criminal case since November
17, 2011-the date his conviction became final-demonstrate
that nothing hindered Williams's ability to file a timely
§ 2255 Motion. See Williams v. Shekmer, No.
1:15-CV-490 (W.D. Mich.); United States v. Williams,
No. 1:07-CR-249 (W.D. Mich.) (ECF Nos. 204, 205, 207, 212).
Thus, Williams is not entitled to equitable tolling.
concluded that Williams is not entitled to equitable tolling,
the Court must next determine whether a certificate of
appealability should issue under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
A certificate should issue if a movant has demonstrated a
“substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). The Sixth Circuit
has disapproved issuance of blanket denials of certificates
of appealability. Murphy v. Ohio, 263 F.3d 466, 467
(6th Cir. 2001). Rather, the district court must
“engage in a reasoned assessment of each claim”
to determine whether a certificate is warranted. Id.
at 467. Each issue must be considered under the standards set
forth by the Supreme Court in Slack v. McDaniel, 529
U.S. 473, 120 S.Ct. 1595 (2000). Murphy, 263 F.3d at
Slack, 529 U.S. at 484, 120 S.Ct. at 1604, to
warrant a grant of the certificate, “[t]he petitioner
must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the
district court's assessment of the constitutional claims
debatable or wrong.” The Court concludes that
reasonable jurists could not find this Court's conclusion
that Williams is not entitled to ...