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Sanders v. Williams

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

October 17, 2019

Dennis F. Sanders, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Williams, Respondent.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Petitioner Dennis F. Sanders, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (“Habeas Petition”). (ECF No. 1.) The matter before the court is a review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”). (ECF No. 16.) For the reasons below, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 16) and DISMISSES Petitioner Dennis F. Sanders' Habeas Petition (ECF No. 1).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 1, 2011, Petitioner pled guilty to charges for trafficking methamphetamine. (ECF No. 1 at 1-2). Petitioner's conviction became final on September 11, 2011 when Petitioner did not seek further direct review. (ECF No. 16 at 1.) On May 23, 2012, Petitioner filed his PCR in the lower court. (Id.) He appealed the PCR decision, and on October 31, 2017, remittitur was filed. (Id. at 1-2.) Petitioner filed a Habeas Petition on October 24, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) The Magistrate Judge issued the Report on January 8, 2019, recommending dismissal because the Habeas Petition is time-barred. (ECF No. 16.) The Magistrate Judge determined that the “delivery date” of the Habeas Petition is September 11, 2018. (ECF No. 16 at 4 (citing Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-76 (1988) (prisoner's pleading was filed at moment of delivery to prison authorities for forwarding to District Court)).) The court observes that the Report provides the following periods of “untolled” time:

September 11, 2011 (liberally construed, the date upon which Petitioner's conviction became final, SCACR Rule 203) to May 23, 2012 (the filing date of Petitioner's first state PCR action) (255 days)
October 31, 2017 (liberally construed, the date the lower court received the remittitur on Petitioner's PCR action)2 to September 11, 2018 (the Houston v. Lack delivery date of the instant Petition) (315 days)

(ECF No. 16 at 4.) Stated differently, the Magistrate Judge concluded that “the Petitioner has over [five-hundred] (500) days of untolled time. This aggregate time period exceeds the one-year statute of limitations of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). (ECF No. 16 at 5 (citing Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 327 (4th Cir. 2000). Petitioner filed timely objections to the Report on February 21, 2019.[1] (ECF No. 19.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge only makes a recommendation to this court, and the recommendation has no presumptive weight. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Id. at 271. As such, the court is charged with making de novo determinations of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). In the absence of specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report, the court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the Report. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Rather, “in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note). Thus, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         The court is required to interpret pro se documents liberally and will hold those documents to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). See also Hardin v. United States, C/A No. 7:12-cv-0118-GRA, 2012 WL 3945314, at *1 (D.S.C. Sept. 10, 2012). Additionally, pro se documents must be construed in a favorable manner, “no matter how inartfully pleaded, to see whether they could provide a basis for relief.” Garrett v. Elko, No. 95-7939, 1997 WL 457667, at *1 (4th Cir. Aug. 12, 1997). Although pro se documents are liberally construed by federal courts, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate.” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for Balt., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. First Objection

         Petitioner “objects to [the Habeas Petition] being dismiss[ed] on the grounds of Ineffective Assistance of trial counsel.” (ECF No. 19 at 3.) Specifically, Petitioner claims that:

counsel did not file [a] timely appeal before September 11, 2011 . . . fail[ed] to advise Petitioner of the one-year statute of limitations to file [Post-Conviction Relief] and [a Habeas Petition] . . . [and] also failed to explain to Petitioner that the one-year period does not run, i.e., ‘is tolled' during the time period that a direct appeal and a Post-Conviction Relief application are pending.

(Id. at 4-5.) Petitioner also filed a letter stating that “his appellate defense attorneys told him he had one year from the ‘decision from my Appeals to file my ...


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