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Molnar v. Maldonado

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 16, 2016

ERIC MOLNAR, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN MALDONADO, et al., Respondents.

RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 6), PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (DOC. NO. 1), & MOTIONS TO APPOINT COUNSEL (DOC. NOS. 7 & 14)

Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

The petitioner, Eric Molnar (“Molnar”), an inmate currently confined at the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, brings this action pro se for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to section 2254 of title 28 of the United States Code. He challenges his 2001 convictions for kidnapping, unlawful restraint, assault, and sexual assault. The respondents have filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 6) the petition on the ground that it is barred by the statute of limitations. For reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss is granted.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal courts will entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging a state court conviction only if the petitioner claims that his custody violates the Constitution or federal laws. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A claim that a state conviction was obtained in violation of state law is not cognizable in federal court. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991).

Section 2244(d)(1) of title 28 of the United States Code imposes a one-year statute of limitations on the filing of a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging a judgment of conviction imposed by a state court. A state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief must file his petition within one year of the latest of:

(A) the date on which the judgment becomes final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)-(D). The limitations period may be tolled for the period during which a properly filed state habeas petition is pending. See 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(2).

The limitations period is not a “jurisdictional bar.” Smith v. McGinnis, 208 F.3d 13, 17 (2d Cir. 2000). Consequently, the court may equitably toll the limitations period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). See id. Equitable tolling may be applied in habeas cases only in extraordinary and rare circumstances and requires the petitioner to demonstrate: (1) “that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, ” and, (2) “that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). The threshold for petitioner to establish equitable tolling is high. See Smith, 208 F.3d at 17.

The standard for determining whether a petitioner diligently pursued his rights is reasonable diligence. The court must determine whether the petitioner has shown that he “act[ed] as diligently as reasonably could have been expected under the circumstances.” Baldayaque v. United States, 338 F.3d 145, 153 (2d Cir. 2003) (emphasis in original). Furthermore, the petitioner must have “acted with reasonable diligence throughout the period he seeks to toll.” Smith, 208 F.3d at 17.

When reviewing the extraordinary circumstances, the court considers “the severity of the obstacle impeding compliance with [the] limitations period” set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). Harper v. Ercole, 648 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 2011). The inquiries into extraordinary circumstances and reasonable diligence are related. The petitioner must show “a causal relationship between the extraordinary circumstances on which the claim for equitable tolling rests and the lateness of his filing.” Valverde v. Stinson, 224 F.3d 129, 134 (2d Cir. 2000). A petitioner cannot establish the ...


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