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Fifth Circuit: “Mailbox Rule” Applies to Texas State Habeas Petitions

Fifth Circuit: “Mailbox Rule” Applies to Texas State Habeas Petitions

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the “mailbox rule” of Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988) now applies to determining the date when Texas prisoners file state habeas corpus petitions for the purpose of calculating the applicable period for the AEDPA’s one-year statute of limitations in which to file federal habeas petitions.

Kenneth Richards, a Texas state prisoner, delivered a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus to prison authorities 329 days after his state criminal conviction became final. The court clerk did not stamp the petition as being filed for another 37 days. Twenty-two days after the petition was denied by the state court, Richards mailed his federal application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

The respondent filed a motion for summary judgment based on untimeliness grounds. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the petition, and Richards appealed.

“A person in state custody has one year to apply for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The one-year period begins to run, as relevant here, on the date the conviction became final at the conclusion of the time to seek direct review, § 2244(d)(1)(A), though the period is tolled while a properly filed state post-conviction petition is pending, § 2244(d)(2),” the Fifth Circuit wrote.

The appellate court noted that in Coleman v. Johnson, 184 F.3d 398 (5th Cir. 1999), it had held that under Texas law, the mailbox rule did not apply to state habeas petitions. However, in Campbell v. State, 320 S.W.3d 338 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010), the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals applied the mailbox rule to criminal proceedings, finding “that the pleadings of pro se inmates shall be deemed filed at the time they are delivered to prison authorities for forwarding to the court clerk.”

Therefore, the Fifth Circuit held Coleman was no longer valid and the mailbox rule now applies to Texas prisoners’ state habeas filings. The dismissal of Richards’ petition was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. See: Richards v. Thaler, 710 F.3d 573 (5th Cir. 2013).

Following remand, Richards’ habeas petition was dismissed by the federal district court on the merits in May 2014. He was challenging his 25-year sentence for possession of a cell phone in a correctional facility. See: Richards v. Stephens, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65098 (S.D. Tex. May 12, 2014).


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Related legal cases

Richards v. Stephens


Richards v. Thaler