United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
John McGrath has filed this pro se petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For
the reasons set forth below, I will dismiss the petition on
the ground that it was not timely filed within one year of
when his state court convictions became final.
August 9, 2002, McGrath was convicted after a bench trial in
the Connecticut Superior Court on multiple counts of sexual
assault and risk of injury to a child, and he was sentenced
to a total effective sentence of 18 years of imprisonment,
suspended after 11 years, and 20 years of probation. His
convictions were affirmed by the Connecticut Appellate Court
on February 8, 2005, see State v. John M., 87
Conn.App. 301 (2005), and by the Connecticut Supreme Court on
March 11, 2008, see State v. John M., 285 Conn. 822
(2008). He did not seek certiorari from the U.S. Supreme
the pendency of his direct appeal, McGrath filed a pro
se petition for a new trial on the ground of newly
discovered evidence. See Docs. #13-6 at 2; #13-7.
The trial court denied the petition on August 9, 2007.
See McGrath v. State, 2007 WL 2429203 (Conn. Super.
the trial court denied him a new trial, McGrath amended his
petition to include a claim for ineffective assistance of
trial counsel, which the trial court construed as a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus. See Docs. #13-6; #13-8.
The state trial court eventually denied the petition on July
27, 2010. See McGrath v. State, 2010 WL 3326820
(Conn. Super. 2010). McGrath did not file a timely petition
for certification to pursue appellate review of this
decision. Doc. #13-1 at 10.
than two years later, McGrath was released from custody and
began his term of probation on December 28, 2012. Doc. #13-2
at 2. A few months after his release, McGrath filed a writ of
error to the Connecticut Supreme Court on March 14, 2013, to
challenge the state court's denial in 2010 of his habeas
petition. Docs. #13-6 at 3; #13-11 at 2. After transfer of
the writ to the Connecticut Appellate Court, the state moved
to dismiss the writ on the ground that it was procedurally
improper, because McGrath should have-but did not-file a
timely appeal from the state court's denial of his habeas
corpus petition; the state's motion to dismiss was
granted on September 18, 2013. See Docs. #13-14
October 8, 2013, McGrath filed a motion in this Court seeking
to toll the one-year statute of limitations for the filing of
a federal habeas corpus petition. See Doc. #1,
McGrath v. Exec. Dir. of Court Support Servs., No.
3:13-mc-131 (VLB). His motion was assigned to the docket of
my colleague, Judge Vanessa Bryant, who denied the motion on
November 3, 2014. Judge Bryant declined in the first place to
construe the tolling motion as a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus because it lacked any statement of a basis for
the Court to grant relief. See Doc. #2 at 3,
McGrath v. Exec. Dir of Court Support Servs., No.
3:13-mc-131 (VLB) (“this court cannot construe
petitioner's motion as a section 2254 petition, as
petitioner fails to describe the claims he proposes to assert
in a future federal habeas petition”).
Bryant further concluded that McGrath had not timely sought
federal habeas corpus relief. McGrath argued before Judge
Bryant that the one-year limitations period should be tolled
because his wife had been assisting him with his legal
filings while he had been incarcerated, and she had misled
him into believing that certain legal actions were proceeding
when in fact they were not. Id. at 1-2. Judge Bryant
did not agree that the alleged deception by McGrath's
wife would allow for equitable tolling of the one-year
Even assuming that his wife's alleged deception can be
considered extraordinary circumstances, petitioner has not
demonstrated that he pursued his rights diligently.
Petitioner has not shown why he was required to rely on his
wife, who was apparently not acting as his attorney, in
filing legal actions for him. A great many incarcerated
individuals are able to pursue their own habeas petitions pro
se. [citation omitted] Even if, hypothetically, petitioner
could show that he required his wife's assistance, he has
not demonstrated that he was diligent in supervising her.
Petitioner may not simply rely on his wife's
representations - as he was proceeding pro se, he was himself
ultimately responsible for ensuring that his case was filed
and proceeding as he wished. By comparison, even those habeas
petitioners proceeding with counsel are “[responsible]
for overseeing the attorney's conduct or the preparation
of the petition.” [quoting Doe v. Menefee, 391
F.3d 147, 175 (2d Cir. 2004)] Petitioner has not shown that
he was diligent in overseeing his wife in assisting him, nor
has he shown that he was diligent in making certain that his
case was filed and being litigated. Petitioner has thus not
demonstrated that he is eligible for equitable tolling.
Id. at 4-5.
meantime, on January 7, 2014, McGrath filed the instant
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and this petition ended
up on my docket. See Doc. #1. McGrath's federal
petition challenges his convictions on multiple grounds,
including alleged abuse of judicial discretion by the state
trial judge, alleged prosecutorial misconduct, and alleged
ineffective assistance of counsel. Predictably enough,
respondent has moved to dismiss the petition as untimely.
federal court “shall entertain an application for a
writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody
pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground
that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a). Federal law, however, imposes stringent time
limitations for prisoners to seek federal habeas corpus
relief. Subject to certain exceptions, federal law requires
that a federal petition for habeas ...