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Name: Yeh v. Martel
Case #: 11-55625
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 05/13/2014

Neither petitioner’s limited ability to speak English or his mental impairment were extraordinary circumstances that excused the late filing of his federal habeas petition. In 2006, Yeh pled guilty to battery on a correctional officer while incarcerated in the California Rehabilitation Center. He did not appeal the conviction and his judgment became final September 18, 2006. The following year he repeatedly asked for assistance to file an appeal. In 2008 he filed writ petitions in the California Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court and superior court. All were denied. On June 10, 2010, he filed a habeas petition in federal court. He appealed the district court’s dismissal of the petition as untimely, claiming equitable tolling due to limited English proficiency and mental impairment. Held: Affirmed. Equitable tolling is available only where the petitioner pursued his rights diligently and an extraordinary circumstance prevented a timely filing. It is reserved for rare cases. Yeh’s lack of English proficiency did not make it impossible for him to timely file because he received translation assistance on a number of occasions. As for mental impairment, to constitute an extraordinary circumstance it must be so debilitating that it is the but-for cause of the delay. Yeh repeatedly sought administrative and judicial remedies, showed awareness of basic legal concepts, and requested assistance with his filings. He filed habeas petitions in state court in three venues. Finally, Yeh failed to diligently pursue relief in state and federal court because he allowed years to go by without acting.