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Fifth Circuit: Special Parole Review Request Doesn’t Toll AEDPA Limitations

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that improperly-filed state habeas corpus applications and requests to the parole board for special review do not toll the one-year AEDPA limitations period established by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).

Barry Michael Wion, a Texas state prisoner, filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that retroactive changes in Texas parole laws violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court granted relief after holding that Wion’s improperly-filed state application for a writ of habeas corpus and his request to the parole board for special review (which was denied) tolled the AEDPA limitations period. Alternatively, if they did not, equitable tolling should apply because Wion had diligently pursued his claims. [See: PLN, Feb. 2009, p.14].

The state appealed, and the Fifth Circuit held that a state prisoner is required to exhaust all state procedures for relief before filing a federal habeas action. However, in contrast to the law governing prisoners who seek time credits, which requires them to exhaust a specific administrative remedy before filing a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus, nothing prevents a prisoner from filing a state habeas petition while a request for special review with the parole board is pending. Therefore, the pendency of a special parole review request does not toll the limitations period.

Wion had initially filed a state application for a writ of habeas corpus that was held for more than two months, then dismissed for non-compliance with state rules. He properly filed another state habeas petition, but it would have been after the limitations period if neither his request for special parole review nor the non-compliant state habeas application tolled the limitation period. The Fifth Circuit held that the AEDPA was specific in requiring that a state petition for post-conviction or other collateral review be “properly filed” to toll the limitations period. Wion’s non-compliant state application was not properly filed, and therefore his federal habeas petition was untimely.

Neither the request for special parole review nor the non-compliant state habeas application qualified for equitable tolling because they were not “rare and exceptional circumstances.” Therefore, the Fifth Circuit reversed the decision of the district court and rendered judgment for the state due to the expired AEDPA limitations period. See: Wion v. Quarterman, 567 F.3d 146 (5th Cir. 2009).

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Related legal case

Wion v. Quarterman