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Name: Grant v. Swarthout
Case #: 13-55584
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 07/07/2017

Federal habeas petitioner entitled to equitable tolling of the AEDPA statute of limitations where he acted diligently while waiting for a prison account certificate from his prison counselor. Grant filed a pro se federal habeas petition challenging his state first degree murder conviction. The state moved to dismiss the petition as barred by the AEDPA one-year statute of limitations. Grant argued he was entitled to equitable tolling from the time he requested a certificate showing the amount of money in his prison account (which was required for him to file his petition in forma pauperis) until the time he received the certificate. If equitable tolling applied, his petition would have been timely. The district court dismissed the petition as untimely, finding Grant was not entitled to equitable tolling because he requested the prison account certificate on the 354th day of the 365-day limitations period, and had not shown that he was diligent throughout the entire 354 days prior to the filing of his state habeas petition. Held: Reversed. A petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling where he demonstrates an extraordinary circumstance prevented timely filing and that he acted diligently. With respect to diligence, the relevant consideration is whether the petitioner was diligent during the time the extraordinary circumstance prevented timely filing, and the district court improperly considered whether Grant was diligent before the extraordinary circumstance arose. Here, Grant could not file his federal petition without the prison account certificate. The time during which he was waiting for the prison account certificate was an extraordinary circumstance that justified equitable tolling because Grant was entirely dependent on prison officials to provide him with the certificate. Grant acted diligently while waiting for his certificate and filed his petition the day he received his certificate. He was entitled to equitable tolling and his federal petition was therefore timely. [Editor’s Note: The court did not decide whether a petitioner is required to exercise diligence after an extraordinary circumstance had ended.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: