RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Texas State Capitol
DOCKET NO.: 04-5286
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
CITATION: 545 US (2005)
GRANTED: Nov 29, 2004
ARGUED: Mar 22, 2005
DECIDED: Jun 20, 2005
Janice L. Bergmann - argued the cause for Petitioner
James A. Feldman - argued the cause for Respondent
Facts of the case
In 1997, Dodd was convicted under federal law for knowingly and intentionally engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. On April 4, 2001 he filed a motion that the conviction should be set aside because it was contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 1999 in Richardson v. U.S. In that case, the Court held that a jury must agree unanimously that a defendant is guilty of each of the specific violations that constitute the continuing criminal enterprise. The district court rejected Dodd's motion, because it was filed more than a year after the Court decided Richardson. Under federal law, the one-year limitation period in which a prisoner may file a motion to change his sentence, begins "on the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review." The 11th Circuit affirmed.
Is the start date for a federal prisoner's one-year limitation period the date on which the Court "initially recongized" the right asserted in an applicant's motion, or the date on which the right is "made retroactive?"
Media for Dodd v. United StatesAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 2005 in Dodd v. United States
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 20, 2005 in Dodd v. United States
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in Dodd versus United States will be announced by Justice O'Connor.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
This case comes here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
It is another case about a statute of limitations.
The petitioner, Michael Donald Dodd was convicted in Federal Court of knowingly and intentionally engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise in violation of 21 U.S. Code Sections 841 and 846 along with several other crimes.
His conviction became final on August 6th, 1997.
More than three years later, in April 2001, Dodd filed a pro se motion for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S. Code 2255.
He sought to set aside his conviction based on an intervening decision of this Court in a case called Richardson versus United States.
Dodd tried to take advantage of the one year statute of limitations in a subsection of Section 2255 which provides that the one year limitation period begins to run on the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.
Dodd argued that that limitation period did not begin to run until April 2002 when the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the right recognized in Richardson applied retroactively to cases on collateral review.
The Federal District Court dismissed Dodd's motion for habeas as time barred because the Richardson case had been decided more than one year before Dodd filed his motion.
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
In an opinion filed with the Clerk of the Court today, we affirm the Eleventh Circuit's judgment.
We hold that the text of paragraph 6.3 unequivocally identifies one and only one date from which the one year limitation period is measured.
The statute says the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court.
The second clause of the paragraph has no impact on the date identified in the first clause.
It limits the paragraphs application to cases in which applicants are seeking to assert rights newly recognized by the Supreme Court made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.
That means that if this Court decides a case recognizing a new right, a federal prisoner seeking to assert that right will have one year from the date of this Court's decision for judgment within which to file his Section 2255 motion.
He may take advantage of the date in the first clause of paragraph 6.3 only if the conditions in the second clause are met.
Now, in this case, Dodd's motion sought to benefit from our holding in Richardson which was decided June 1, 1999 so he had one year from that date within which to file his motion.
Because he did not file it until April, 2001, the motion was untimely.
Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion which Justices Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer join in part; Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion which just Justice Breyer has joined.