Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hutchinson: Negligent habeas lawyers does not support equitable tolling

In Hutchinson v. Florida, No. 10-14978 (April 19, 2012), the Court held that a habeas petition was time-barred by AEDPA, and declined to apply the equitable tolling doctrine in the favor of a Florida death row inmate.
Despite entreaties from Hutchinson that they were going to miss the deadline for filing his state habeas petition within the one-year federal deadline that would toll the federal statute of limitations, Hutchinson’s lawyer believed that they had more time than they in fact did, and filed the state petition after the one-year deadline had lapsed. As a result, after the state courts denied habeas relief, Hutchinson’s federal petition was untimely. Hutchinson invoked equitable tolling, but the Court held that missing the statute of limitations could not be excused based on counsel’s negligence, pointing out that Hutchinson, though he protested that his state petition was being filed too late for federal purposes, never filed a federal habeas petition or took any action to preserve his federal petition for nearly four years. Consequently, he did not pursue his rights diligently.
Concurring, Judge Barkett argued that in death row cases, one should not adhere to the principle that an inmate must bear the consequences of his lawyer’s negligence.