United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
ORDER DENYING RESPONDENT'S RULE 59(E) MOTION
MARY G. LEWIS, District Judge.
Petitioner filed this case as a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 action. Pending before the Court is Respondent's Motion to Alter or Amend the Court's March 31, 2015, Order under Fed. R Civ. P. 59(e), which held that Petitioner's petition was timely filed, but that her ineffective assistance of plea counsel claims had no merit. Respondent moves the Court to alter or amend the portion of the Order holding that Petitioner's petition was timely filed. Having carefully considered Respondent's motion, Petitioner's response, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of this Court that Respondent's motion will be denied.
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
As is relevant for the disposition of this motion, Petitioner filed her petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) on August 19, 2005. On September 14, 2009, the PCR court filed its Order of Dismissal. Petitioner filed a motion under Rule 59(e) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure to alter or amend the PCR Court's Order on September 25, 2009, which the PCR court denied on October 26, 2009.
Petitioner appealed the PCR court's order. On July 20, 2012, the South Carolina Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's petition, and then on September 21, 2012, it denied her petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The remittitur was issued on November 8, 2012.
On November 7, 2013, Petitioner filed her § 2254 petition with this Court, in which she raised four grounds of relief for alleged ineffective assistance of her plea counsel. Respondent filed his motion for summary judgment on April 4, 2014, arguing, among other things, that Petitioner had filed her petition after the statute of limitations had expired. Petitioner filed her response to the motion on July 21, 2014.
On January 29, 2015, the Magistrate Judge filed her Report and Recommendation (Report) agreeing with Respondent that Petitioner's petition was untimely; but, even if the petition was timely, it was without merit. Petitioner filed her objections to the Report on March 16, 2015.
On March 31, 2015, this Court issued an Order holding that Petitioner filed her petition within the applicable statute of limitations, but that her ineffectiveness of assistance of plea counsel claims were without merit. Respondent filed his Rule 59(e) motion on April 15, 2015, and Petitioner filed her response on May 4, 2015. Respondent's motion is now ripe for review.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "provides that a court may alter or amend the judgment if the movant shows either (1) an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) new evidence that was not available at trial, or (3) that there has been a clear error of law or a manifest injustice." Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp, LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 407 (4th Cir. 2010). The Fourth Circuit "reviews the denial of a Rule 59(e) motion under the deferential abuse of discretion standard." Id.
IV. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
In his Rule 59(e) motion Respondent argues that, in light of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) one year statute of limitations and the Supreme Court's holding in Gonzalez v. Thaler, 132 S.Ct. 641 (2012), the Court erred in holding that Petitioner's § 2254 petition was timely. Respondent's Motion 1. He also states that "[t]he District Court concluded that the statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. Section 2244(d) was tolled until the South Carolina Court of Appeals issued its remittitur on November 7, 2015. However, the decision of the Court of Appeals was final when the Court of Appeals denied the Petition for Rehearing o[n] September 21, 2015." Id. Stated differently, according to Respondent, "the District Court erred in rejecting the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the date of the denial of the petition for rehearing rather than the remittitur letter date was the operative date for the running of the statute of limitations." Id. at 2.
In response, Petitioner avows that the Court's interpretation of Gonzalez is correct. Petitioner's Petitioner's Response 1. But, in case the Court should decide that it erred in its initial decision, Petitioner avers that the doctrine of equitable tolling should apply. Id at 2-4. Further, if the Court is inclined to adopt Respondent's interpretation of Gonzalez and reject Petitioner's request for equitable tolling, then Petitioner asks that the Court to grant to Petitioner ...