Because the California Supreme Court’s citations to Swain and Duvall in order denying habeas petition was a finding that petitioner’s claims were timely despite the contrary rulings of the lower courts, all of his state habeas petitions were “properly filed” for purposes of statutory tolling under AEDPA. Eight months after Curiel’s special circumstance murder conviction became final on direct review, he filed a habeas petition in a California superior court. The court denied the petition on the basis that it was untimely. Curiel filed a new habeas petition in the California Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied. The California Supreme Court denied a subsequent habeas petition with citations to In re Swain (1949) 34 Cal.2d 300, 304 and People v. Duvall (1995) 9 Cal.4th 464, 474. Thereafter, Curiel filed a federal habeas petition. The district court dismissed the petition as untimely, concluding that Curiel was not entitled to statutory tolling for the period his state habeas petitions were pending in the trial court and the Court of Appeal. Curiel appealed: Held: Reversed and remanded. The time during which a “properly filed” state habeas petition is pending tolls AEDPA’s one-year limitations period. However, a state habeas petition that is untimely under state law is not “properly filed” and is therefore ineligible for tolling. Although the state trial court denied Curiel’s habeas petition on timeliness grounds, the California Supreme Court’s denial with citations to Swain and Duvall signals that the Supreme Court denied the petition because Curiel had not pled facts with sufficient particularity, and a petition denied for this reason is considered “properly filed.” By citing Swain and Duvall, the California Supreme Court overruled the prior untimeliness rulings of the trial court and the Court of Appeal. As a result, “Curiel’s state habeas petitions must be deemed properly filed for their entire pendency in state court for purposes of tolling AEDPA’s statute of limitations.” Once the court accounted for statutory tolling, it concluded that Curiel’s federal habeas petition was timely.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/07/25/11-56949.pdf