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Notice of Appeal Deemed Filed When Presented to Prison Officials; Burden on State to Refute

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner's notice of appeal is considered filed on the date it is given to prison officials, and the state has the burden of proof to demonstrate otherwise.

Alabama prisoner Robert S. Allen filed a federal habeas corpus petition challenging his criminal conviction, which was denied by an Alabama federal district court on March 17, 2004. That Court's docket reflects that the next document was filed a year later when Allen moved to vacate, seeking a belated appeal.

Allen's motion alleged that on March 28, 2004, he gave an envelope with prepaid postage to prison officials that contained a notice of appeal to file with the district court. He claimed he was entitled to the benefit of the "prison mailbox rule."

The district court assumed Allen had timely delivered his notice of appeal to prison officials. However, the court held Allen was ineligible "to receive the benefit of the prison mailbox rule because he had failed to act with reasonable diligence in following up with court officials?" Allen argued on appeal that the prison mailbox rule does not include a due diligence requirement.

The Eleventh Circuit agreed with Allen, holding that once there has been a finding of fact that a timely notice of appeal was delivered to the proper prison authorities (with proper postage prepaid) for mailing to the district court, "there is no room" for the operation of due diligence.?

The district court's order was reversed. The appellate court noted that on remand, "the burden of proof should be placed upon the state if Allen has satisfied the requirement" of the mailbox rule by submitting a declaration under penalty of perjury or a notarized statement concerning when he deposited the notice and provided prepaid first class postage. See: Allen v. Culliver, 471 F.3d 1196 (11th Cir. 2006).

Upon remand, the district court held that Allen's notice of appeal was timely filed under the prison mailbox rule, but denied his "request for certificate of appealability implicit in that notice of appeal." See: Allen v. Culliver, USDC SD AL, Case No. 03-0375-WS-M, 2007 WL 779611.

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Related legal cases

Allen v. Culliver

Allen v. Culliver