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AEDPA Statute of Limitations Subject to Equitable Tolling

By FindLaw Staff | Last updated on

Holland v. Fla., No. 09-5327, involved a capital habeas matter.  The Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit's affirmance of the denial of petitioner's habeas petition, holding that: 1) 28 U.S.C. section 2244(d), the AEDPA statute of limitations, is subject to equitable tolling in appropriate cases, and the per se standard employed by the Eleventh Circuit was too rigid; and 2) the district court incorrectly rested its ruling not on a lack of extraordinary circumstances (which may well be present), but on a lack of diligence.

As the Court wrote:  "We here decide that the timeliness provision in the federal habeas corpus statute is subject to equitable tolling. See Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U. S. C. §2244(d). We also consider its application in this case. In the Court of Appeals' view, when a petitioner seeks to excuse a late filing on the basis of his attorney's unprofessional conduct, that conduct, even if it is "negligent" or "grossly negligent," cannot "rise to the level of egregious attorney misconduct" that would warrant equitable tolling unless the petitioner offers "proof of bad faith, dishonesty, divided loyalty, mental impairment or so forth." 539 F.3d 1334, 1339 (CA11 2008) (per curiam). In our view, this standard is too rigid. See Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U. S. 89, 96 (1990); see also Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U. S. 327, 336 (2007). We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings.

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