Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mitchell v. Green

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

April 17, 2019

WILLIAM JAMES MITCHELL, Petitioner - Appellant,
v.
KATHLEEN S. GREEN, Warden; THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND, Respondents - Appellees.

          Argued: November 1, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Deborah K. Chasanow, Senior District Judge. (8:13-cv-02063-DKC)

         ARGUED:

          JOANNA BETH SILVER, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, GREENBELT, MARYLAND, FOR APPELLANT.

          RYAN ROBERT DIETRICH, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, FOR APPELLEES.

         ON BRIEF:

          JAMES WYDA, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, FOR APPELLANT.

          BRIAN E. FROSH, ATTORNEY GENERAL, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, FOR APPELLEES.

          Before KING, FLOYD, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.

          KING, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         At the request of the respondent Maryland officials and in accordance with previous District of Maryland rulings, the district court dismissed state prisoner William James Mitchell's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for being untimely filed. See Mitchell v. Green, No. 8:13-cv-02063 (D. Md. Oct. 11, 2017), ECF Nos. 31 & 32 (the "Opinion" and "Order").[1] Having nevertheless acknowledged questions about whether the local rulings breached the Supreme Court's decision in Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545 (2011), the district court granted Mitchell a certificate of appealability on the central timeliness issue: whether the one-year limitations period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") for filing the § 2254 petition was tolled by Mitchell's state court motion to reduce sentence under Rule 4-345 of the Maryland Rules. Whereas the district court determined, consistent with the other District of Maryland rulings, that no such tolling occurred, we find ourselves compelled by Kholi to conclude that the limitations period was tolled during the pendency of the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion. Consequently, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

         I. As explained in its Opinion of October 11, 2017, the district court received Mitchell's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition on July 17, 2013. The court calculated that AEDPA's one-year limitations period for the filing of the § 2254 petition began to run nearly four years earlier, on August 21, 2009, the date on which Mitchell's state criminal judgment became final. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A) (specifying, in relevant part, that the one-year limitations period runs from "the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review").[2]

         Despite the nearly four-year lapse between the finalization of Mitchell's state criminal judgment and the filing of his § 2254 petition, the district court recognized that the § 2254 petition was timely filed if the limitations period was tolled during the pendency - for more than three years - of Mitchell's Maryland Rule 4-345 motion to reduce sentence. Mitchell filed his Maryland Rule 4-345 motion on September 2, 2009, soon after his state criminal judgment became final, and the motion was resolved on October 1, 2012, when it was denied by the state trial court (the Circuit Court for Harford County). To have tolled the § 2254 petition's limitations period for those three-plus years, the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion must constitute an "application for State post-conviction or other collateral review" within the meaning of AEDPA's tolling provision. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2) (providing in full that "[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection").[3]

         In its Opinion, the district court observed that Mitchell presented a substantial argument, relying on the Supreme Court's Kholi decision, that the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion sought "collateral review" and thus tolled the § 2254 petition's limitations period. The respondent Maryland officials countered, however, with the previous local rulings - rendered by six District of Maryland judges - rejecting similar Kholi-based contentions. Adhering to "the unbroken chain of decisions from this district" and respecting "the need for uniformity in this area," the court ultimately ruled that "a motion under Md. Rule 4-345 does not toll the running of the statute of limitations." See Opinion 10. But the court also emphasized that there was "no question . . . that the procedural ruling is open to significant debate" and "only appellate courts can definitively resolve the issue." Id. at 10, 12. By its accompanying Order of October 11, 2017, the court dismissed Mitchell's § 2254 petition for being untimely filed and sua sponte granted him the certificate of appealability so that we may confront the timeliness question.

         II.

         As a result of the certificate of appealability granted by the district court, we possess jurisdiction in these proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 2253(c)(1)(A). Again, the issue before us is whether AEDPA's one-year limitations period for filing Mitchell's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition was tolled by his Maryland Rule 4-345 motion to reduce sentence. That is, we are called upon to decide whether the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion constitutes an "application for State post-conviction or other collateral review" within the meaning of AEDPA's tolling provision. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). Our review of this timeliness question is de novo. See Allen v. Mitchell, 276 F.3d 183, 185 (4th Cir. 2001).

         A.

         In its key decision in Wall v. Kholi, in 2011, the Supreme Court assessed whether a motion to reduce sentence under Rhode Island law triggers AEDPA's tolling provision. See 562 U.S. 545 (2011). The law at issue was Rule 35 of the Rhode Island Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure, which by its subsection (a) authorizes a court to "reduce any sentence," as well as to "correct an illegal sentence" and to "correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner." Id. at 548 n.1 (emphasis omitted) (quoting R.I. Super. Ct. R. Crim. P. 35(a)). For a sentence reduction, Rhode Island Rule 35 requires the filing of a motion within 120 days after one of the following events: the court's imposition of the sentence at issue; the receipt by the court of the mandate of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island upon affirmance of the judgment or dismissal of the appeal; or receipt by the court of the mandate or order of the Supreme Court of the United States upon affirmance of the judgment, dismissal of the appeal, or denial of a writ of certiorari. With respect to any Rule 35 motion, the court is obliged to "act on the motion within a reasonable time, provided that any delay by the court in ruling on the motion shall not prejudice the movant." Id. (quoting R.I. Super. Ct. R. Crim. P. 35(a)).

         The Kholi Court described a Rhode Island Rule 35 motion to reduce sentence as a "plea for leniency" that "permits a trial justice to decide on reflection or on the basis of changed circumstances that the sentence originally imposed was, for any reason, unduly severe." See 562 U.S. at 554 (internal quotation marks omitted). Such a motion "is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial justice," whose decision may not be disturbed on appeal unless "the trial justice has imposed a sentence that is without justification and is grossly ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.