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Name: Harris v. Carter
Case #: 06-35313
Court: US District Court
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/08/2008

A petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling for AEDPA purposes in the rare case where he relies on the Ninth Circuit’s erroneous interpretation of the law in determining when to file a federal habeas petition. The district court dismissed petitioner’s habeas writ as time-barred because it contained some untimely claims. AEDPA tolls the filing deadline when a “properly filed application” for post conviction review is pending in state court. Under prior Ninth Circuit case law, AEDPA’s clock stopped while an untimely petition was pending in state court. According to that precedent, the time for filing petitioner’s writ would have been tolled. But the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of the statute was overruled by the United States Supreme Court in Pace v. DiGuglielmo (2005) 544 U.S. 408. Petitioner argued he was entitled to equitable tolling because he relied on then-controlling precedent. The Ninth Circuit agreed these circumstances justified equitable tolling. Equitable tolling is available only when extraordinary circumstances beyond a petitioner’s control make it impossible to file a timely petition. Here, petitioner relied in good faith on then-binding precedent in making the choice to pursue post-conviction relief in state court and to delay filing his federal habeas petition. Petitioner could not control the operative fact that made his petition late, namely the Supreme Court’s decision in Pace.