Breaking News

New Filing: Petitioner’s Brief in Jimenez v. Quarterman

The following post was written by Carl Cecere of Akin Gump’s Dallas office. He worked on the brief discussed in this post.

On Tuesday, Akin Gump filed this merits brief on behalf of petitioner Carlos Jimenez in Jimenez v. Quarterman, No. 07-6984. The case involves one component of the statutory limitations period imposed on federal habeas corpus claims by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A). This particular provision requires that a federal habeas corpus claim by a prisoner seeking review of a state court conviction must be brought within one year of the completion of “direct review” of the state court conviction or “the time for seeking such review.” At issue is the meaning of the term “direct review” – should an appeal that has been reinstated by court order, well after the ineffectiveness of a prisoner’s prior appellate counsel caused a default in the original appeal, be considered part of the prisoner’s “direct review”?

Petitioner Carlos Jimenez was sentenced to forty-three years in prison after his deferred adjudication probation was revoked. On appeal, his appointed counsel filed a brief, pursuant to Anders v. California, arguing that Jimenez had no grounds for appeal and seeking to withdraw from the representation. Counsel also drafted a letter to Jimenez, indicating that he had not found any meritorious ground for appeal, and stating that Jimenez had the right to file a pro se brief on his own behalf, as was required under Anders. This letter was delivered to the Tom Green County Jail in Texas. Jimenez, however, had been transferred months earlier to the Texas state prison in Abilene, and thus never received a copy of the Anders brief or the letter. Jimenez’s appeal was dismissed, and his counsel was permitted to withdraw in September 1996. After writing several letters to the court of appeals and his appointed attorney, Jimenez learned much later that his appeal had been dismissed. At this point, the deadline for appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the State’s highest criminal appellate court) had passed. Jimenez thereafter sought collateral relief of the denial of his right to an appeal in the Texas courts by filing a state writ of habeas corpus. After determining that his right to effective assistance of counsel and right to a direct appeal had been denied, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reinstated his original appeal. Jimenez unsuccessfully pursued his reinstated direct appeal and then sought post-conviction relief in the Texas courts, which was also denied.

Jimenez filed a habeas corpus petition with the federal district court within one year (taking into account statutory tolling) of the completion of his reinstated appeal. However, the district court, relying on Fifth Circuit precedent, held that Jimenez’s federal habeas claim was barred by the statute of limitations under Section 2244(d)(1)(A) because the limitations period began running at the conclusion of Jimenez’s original failed appeal, rather than the conclusion of his reinstated appeal. Jimenez’s petition for a certificate of appealability was denied by both the district court and the Fifth Circuit.

The brief raises three primary arguments in support of the position that a reinstated appeal should be considered “direct review.” First, a reinstated appeal should be considered “direct” for the purposes of the AEDPA because it functions identically to a direct appeal under Texas law. The fact that it arises from a collateral process is not important. Likewise, there is no reason to believe that Congress would not have regarded a reinstated appeal as “direct,” simply because it effectively “restarts” the limitations period: 2244(d)(1)(A) itself provides a variety of statutory reasons to “restart” the limitations period. Finally, the AEDPA should be interpreted in a manner that allows states to determine when an appellant’s review concludes. This better balances the need for finality of judgments with the need to vindicate important constitutional rights and fosters comity with the state courts.

A number of Akin Gump attorneys worked on the brief. In addition to those named on the brief – Tom Goldstein, Scott Williams, Pat O’Brien and Carl Cecere – Joshua D. Terry and Britt McClung also made significant contributions. In addition, a number of summer associates lent valuable assistance in the effort, including Jonathan Rastegar, Lindsey Cox, Andrew Zollinger, and Joel Bailey. Co-counsel on the brief include Kevin Russell of Howe & Russell, P.C., who also worked extensively on the brief, and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, where clinic students Thomas Haymore, Erica Ross, and Barbara Thomas worked on the brief as well.