United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
N. CHATIGNY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
brings this action for a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his commitment to the custody
of the State of Connecticut Psychiatric Security Review Board
(PSRB) on the ground that his commitment results from
violations of his constitutional rights in the underlying
criminal case. The State has moved to dismiss the action
based on the one-year statute of limitations prescribed by 28
U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). As petitioner concedes, the
one-year period expired in June 2002, and he did not file a
state habeas petition until April 2009. Petitioner argues
that the delay in filing his state habeas petition is excused
by his intellectual disability and illiteracy, which justify
equitable tolling of the limitation period from 2001 to 2008.
The State responds that petitioner has not satisfied his
burden of demonstrating that equitable tolling applies for
this entire period. I agree with the State and therefore
dismiss the petition as untimely.
was committed to the custody of the PSRB in 2001, after a
bench trial in Connecticut Superior Court. The commitment
followed his plea of not guilty, based on lack of capacity
due to mental disease or defect, to charges involving sexual
assault and risk of injury to a minor. See Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 53a-13 (making lack of capacity due to
mental disease or defect an affirmative defense). Since 2001,
petitioner has been confined at Whiting Forensic Institute,
except for a relatively brief period when he was incarcerated
at a Department of Correction facility following his
conviction for an assault at Whiting.
tolling provides relief to a habeas petitioner who shows that
(1) he diligently pursued his rights and (2) some
extraordinary circumstance prevented him from filing a habeas
petition. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645,
649-52 (2010). When equitable tolling is sought based on a
mental condition, the petitioner “must demonstrate that
her particular disability constituted an ‘extraordinary
circumstance' severely impairing her ability to comply
with the filing deadline, despite her diligent efforts to do
so.” Bolarinwa v. Williams, 593 F.3d 226, 232
(2d Cir. 2010). In keeping with the guidance provided by
Bolarinwa, counsel has been appointed for petitioner
and an evidentiary hearing has been held to determine whether
equitable tolling is warranted.
has not sustained his burden of demonstrating the existence
of an extraordinary circumstance that severely impaired his
ability to file a state habeas petition in a timely manner.
Petitioner claims that he was unable to understand the
concept of habeas corpus relief or the need to file a state
habeas petition until December 2008. This claim is not well
supported. Petitioner's competency was evaluated in
connection with the underlying criminal case and he was found
to be competent at that time. There is no indication the
competency evaluation was flawed or petitioner's mental
condition subsequently worsened. Moreover, while
petitioner's intellectual functioning was assessed to be
in the mentally retarded range in 2001, a subsequent
evaluation in 2003 rejected that assessment in light of the
fluidity of his thinking and the quality of his vocabulary.
his commitment in 2001, legal assistance has been available
to petitioner at Whiting, and he has appeared before the PSRB
every two years for a hearing to determine whether he should
be transferred to Dutcher Hall, a less secure facility. On
each occasion counsel was assigned to represent him. There is
no evidence that petitioner, his counsel or anyone else ever
raised a concern in connection with the biennial reviews
regarding petitioner's ability to understand his
situation legally or factually or communicate with his
counsel. In addition, the evidence shows that once petitioner
inquired about his legal rights with regard to his
commitment, he was able to understand and pursue his rights
without apparent difficulty. On this record, petitioner's
intellectual disability and illiteracy did not constitute an
extraordinary circumstance supporting equitable tolling
throughout the period for which tolling is sought.
petitioner shown that he exercised reasonable diligence
throughout this period. Crediting his submissions, he entered
Whiting expecting to be transferred to Dutcher Hall in about
two years, in other words, in or about 2003. Though he had
access to legal assistance at Whiting at all times, and was
represented by counsel in connection with the biennial
reviews, he did not inquire about the legality of his
commitment until late 2008. Why he waited so long remains
unclear. The most likely explanation is that he acquiesced in
his confinement at Whiting, hoping for a transfer to Dutcher
Hall, until it became apparent to him that a transfer was
unlikely, at which point he decided to explore his options.
Assuming that is the case, it may have been reasonable for
petitioner to accept his fate until the outcome of the
biennial review in 2003, or even the outcome of the biennial
review in 2005. But reasonable diligence required him to take
steps after the 2005 review to investigate the legality of
his confinement. Because he did not act until late 2008,
equitable tolling does not apply.
the action is hereby dismissed as untimely. The Clerk may
enter judgment and close the case. No certificate of
appealability will issue.
 In Bolarinwa, the Court of
Appeals remanded to give the petitioner an opportunity to
present evidence in support of her claim for equitable
tolling based on mental illness. The claim was supported by
allegations that the petitioner's psychiatric problems,
which had been aggravated by the deaths of her children,
father and grandfather, had burdened her efforts to file a
habeas petition, and ...