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Name: Smith v. Williams
Case #: 15-16967
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/08/2017
Summary

Statute of limitations for filing federal habeas petition in criminal case begins anew when amended judgment is filed, even if it only reinstates previously vacated convictions. In 1997, Smith was convicted in Nevada of first degree murder and other offenses. His direct appeal was unsuccessful. He filed a series of state and federal habeas petitions, which also failed. In 2007, he filed a third state habeas petition arguing he was entitled to relief based on an intervening decision of the Nevada Supreme Court. The trial court agreed, vacated Smith’s convictions for murder and attempted murder, and filed an amended judgment. The Nevada Supreme Court reversed, concluding that Smith’s petition was untimely. It remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to reinstate the vacated convictions and enter a second amended judgment. The trial court did so. Smith then filed a federal habeas petition challenging the second amended judgment. The district court found the statute of limitations ran from Smith’s initial conviction in 1997, because the amended judgment created no new issues, and dismissed the petition as untimely. Smith appealed. Held: Reversed. Under AEDPA, prisoners in custody pursuant to a state court judgment have one year from the date the judgment becomes final to file a federal habeas petition. (28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).) However, when there is a new judgment intervening between two habeas petitions, a petition challenging the resulting new judgment is not a second or successive habeas petition because the relevant judgment for AEDPA purposes is the one pursuant to which the defendant is incarcerated. (Magwood v. Patterson (2010) 561 U.S. 320.) “It is of no moment that the Second Amended Judgment reinstated counts on which Smith had originally been convicted rather than adding new counts of conviction.” The court reversed the dismissal of Smith’s petition as untimely and remanded for further proceedings.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/09/08/15-16967.pdf