In Stewart v. United States, No. 09-15821 (July 14, 2011), the Court held that a § 2255 petition was not “second or successive” under the AEDPA, and should not have been dismissed on this basis.
After being sentenced as a career offender based on past State convictions, Stewart commenced proceedings in Georgia State court seeking to have his prior convictions vacated. While his State proceedings were pending, Stewart filed a first § 2255 motion in federal court, which was dismissed as time-barred. Years later, Stewart succeeded in getting his past state convictions vacated by Georgia State courts. He then filed a second § 2255 petition, attacking his career offender status on the ground that his past state convictions had now been vacated.
The Court held that because the basis for the second § 2255 motion did not exist until the Georgia courts vacated Stewart’s prior Georgia convictions, and because Stewart acted diligently in obtaining vacatur of his Georgia convictions, his second § 2255 motion was not subject to the AEDPA gatekeeping limitations on “second or successive” § 2255 motions.