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Williams v. Curtin

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 3, 2019

THADDEUS WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
CINDI S. CURTIN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT

          DAVID M. LAWSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the petitioner's motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) and (6) for relief from the November 29, 2016 judgment dismissing his petition as untimely. The petitioner contends that the judgment should be set aside for two reasons. First, he claims that the Court mistakenly concluded that a July 8, 2009 motion filed by the petitioner in the state trial court was a post-conviction collateral attack on the judgment, when, according to the petitioner, it was “part of the direct appeal” since it was filed when the petitioner's motion for reconsideration before the state supreme court still was pending. According to the petitioner, because the July 8, 2009 motion actually was “part of the direct appeal, ” his direct appeal did not conclude until December 20, 2010, when the Michigan Supreme Court denied a motion for reconsideration of its decision denying leave to appeal further from the state trial court's denial of the July 2009 motion. Further, he argues that, because his direct appeal concluded on December 20, 2010, the limitations period did not begin to run until 90 days later - on March 20, 2011, when the time for filing a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court ran out. Second, the petitioner argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations due to the negligence of his post-conviction counsel in failing to correctly calculate the one-year limitations period, thus leading to the untimely filing.

         I.

         In its opinion dismissing the petition as untimely, the Court summarized the procedural history of the petitioner's case in the state courts as follows:

Following his convictions and sentencing, the petitioner filed a direct appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals raising claims concerning the reference to his weapons conviction and denial of a mistrial motion, the sufficiency of the evidence, the submission of first-degree and second-degree murder charges to the jury, the conduct of the prosecutor and the trial court, and the jury instructions. The court denied relief on those claims and affirmed his convictions. The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order on May 27, 2009. People v. Williams, 483 Mich. 1019, 765 N.W.2d 317 (2009). That court denied reconsideration on August 6, 2009. People v. Williams, 484 Mich. 874, 769 N.W.2d 232 (2009).
On October 5, 2009, the petitioner filed a motion to vacate his convictions in the state trial court raising a claim concerning his notice and trial on the first-degree murder charge. The trial court denied relief in a summary order. People v. Williams, No. 07-007377-01 (Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. Nov. 24, 2009). The petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied “for failure to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D).” In denying the application, the court noted that the petitioner's convictions were no longer reviewable under the direct appeal rules, Mich. Ct. R. 7.200 or 7.300, and were only reviewable under the post-conviction rules, Mich. Ct. R. 6.500, et seq. People v. Williams, No. 295546 (Mich. Ct. App. May 24, 2010). The court also denied reconsideration. People v. Williams, No. 295546 (Mich. Ct. App. July 1, 2010). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order on September 9, 2010, People v. Williams, 488 Mich. 858, 787 N.W.2d 124 (2010), and reconsideration was denied on December 20, 2010. People v. Williams, 488 Mich. 998, 791 N.W.2d 445 (2010).
On March 8, 2011, the petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the state trial court raising claims concerning his notice for the first-degree murder charge, his right to a public trial during jury voir dire, the jury instructions, the failure to preserve evidence, and the ineffectiveness of trial and appellate counsel. The court denied relief on those claims citing Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D)(3). People v. Williams, No. 07-007377 (Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. June 2, 2011). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied “for failure to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D).” People v. Williams, No. 306161 (Mich. Ct. App. March 23, 2012). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied on June 25, 2012 because the motion for relief from judgment was “prohibited by MCR 6.502(G).” People v. Williams, 491 Mich. 947, 815 N.W.2d 450 (2012). The court also denied reconsideration on November 20, 2012. People v. Williams, 493 Mich. 898, 822 N.W.2d 577 (2012).

Opinion & Order, ECF No. 13, Pg ID 2173-74. The petitioner subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration in which he asserted that the Court's dismissal of the petition was premised on a mistake of fact, because the first motion to vacate sentence was filed in the state court in July 2009, not October 2009. In an order denying the petitioner's motion for reconsideration, the Court addressed that argument as follows:

It is undisputed that the petitioner filed his habeas petition in this Court on November 7, 2013. The Court concluded, based on the procedural history recited above, that the petitioner's conviction became final on November 4, 2009, when the 90-day period for filing a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court expired:
The state courts completed direct review of the petitioner's convictions on August 6, 2009, when the Michigan Supreme Court denied reconsideration of its order denying leave to appeal. The petitioner's convictions became “final” under the federal habeas statute 90 days later - on November 4, 2009 - when “the time for filing a certiorari petition expire[d].” Jimenez v. Quarterman, 555 U.S. 113, 120 (2009); see Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. 327, 333 (2007); S.Ct. R. 13(1). Therefore, the petitioner was required to file his federal habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A) by November 4, 2010.
[Opinion and Order] at 4-5 (Pg ID 2175-76). Based on that analysis, the Court concluded that the habeas clock did not start to run until November 4, 2009, and that the petitioner initially was required to file his habeas petition by November 4, 2010.
In his briefing in this case, the petitioner argued that his petition was timely because the running of the one-year limitations period twice was paused due to the pendency of his two post conviction motions for relief from judgment. Those motions were filed, according to the petitioner, sometime in July 2009 and on March 8, 2011. However, as the Court explained in its opinion, even if it is assumed that the limitations period was tolled by both motions, for the entire time that the proceedings on each were pending, his petition still was untimely:
After the state courts completed review of the first post-conviction motion, the federal habeas clock restarted on December 21, 2010. By the petitioner's way of thinking, it then ran for 78 days until he filed his second motion for relief from judgment on March 8, 2011. Following that reasoning, it restarted again after November 20, 2012, when the Michigan Supreme Court denied reconsideration of the appeal of the second post-conviction motion. The 287 days then left on the clock took the habeas filing deadline to September 2, 2013. The petitioner did not file his initial federal habeas petition until November 7, 2013 - more than two months later.
Id. at 6 (Pg ID 2177). Although the Court referred to the clock as “restarting, ” the Court's discussion of that calculation makes clear that the Court did not assume that any time at all had run on the habeas clock in 2009. Instead, the Court assumed that the clock never started to run before November 4, 2009, and that it was paused from then through the conclusion of the ...

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