Gonzalez v. Crosby

PETITIONER:Aurelio O. Gonzalez
RESPONDENT:James V. Crosby, Jr., Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections
LOCATION:Texas State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 04-6432
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 545 US (2005)
GRANTED: Jan 14, 2005
ARGUED: Apr 25, 2005
DECIDED: Jun 23, 2005

Christopher M. Kise – argued the cause for Respondent
Patricia A. Millett – argued the cause for Respondent
Paul M. Rashkind – argued the cause for Petitioner

Facts of the case

In Artuz v. Bennett (2000) the U.S. Supreme Court held that state petitions for postconviction relief could toll the federal statute of limitations even if those petitions were ultimately dismissed as procedurally barred. Gonzalez, whose federal habeas petition had been dismissed as time barred, filed a new petition (a Rule 60[b] petition) in light of the Artuz ruling. The district court denied Gonzalez’s new motion. The 11th Circuit affirmed the denial, holding that Gonzalez’s latest motion amounted to a second or succcessive habeas petition which could not be filed without precertification by the court of appeals.


Did Gonzalez’s Rule 60(b) motion constitute a second or successive habeas petition?

Media for Gonzalez v. Crosby

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 25, 2005 in Gonzalez v. Crosby

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 23, 2005 in Gonzalez v. Crosby

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in Gonzales against Crosby will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court for Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

It involves the intersection of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act or AEDPA with the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) which allows civil litigants to seek relief from a final judgment.

Habeas corpus is a civil action.

In 1982, petitioner, Aurelio Gonzales pleaded guilty in Florida Circuit Court to a robbery charge.

He twice sought relief from that conviction in the Florida State Courts.

They denied both motions as procedurally barred.

Petitioner then sought federal habeas corpus relief.

In 1999, the District Court dismissed his petition as time barred because he filed it more than a year after AEDPA’s statute of limitations took effect and because the District Court thought that the limitations period was not tolled while the procedurally barred motion was pending in State Court.

The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner a certificate of appealability and he did not file a petition for rehearing or a petition for cert.

Some months later, we held in a case called Artuz versus Bennett that even a procedurally barred state filling may toll AEDPA’s statute of limitations.

Relying on Artuz, petitioner filed a motion with the District Court seeking to reopen his habeas case under Rule 60(b) which permits relief from judgment in civil cases based on grounds such as excusable and neglect, newly discovered evidence or “any other reason justifying relief”.

The District Court denied the motion.

Sitting en banc, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed by a vote of seven to four and held that except in cases of fraud, AEDPA precludes the use of Rule 60(b) by habeas petitioners and requires Rule 60(b) motions to be treated as second or successive habeas petitions which are subject to strict time limitations and other limitations.

In an opinion filed today with the Clerk, we hold that the Eleventh Circuit was wrong to treat petitioner’s motion as a successive habeas petition and that petitioner’s motion was properly brought under Rule 60(b).

We nonetheless, affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals because under Rule 60(b), petitioner is not entitled to relief.

Rule 60(b) like the rest of the rules of Civil Procedure applies in habeas proceedings only “to the extent that it is not inconsistent with” applicable federal statutory provisions.

The relevant provision of AEDPA forbids a state prisoner from filing a second or successive habeas corpus application except under certain limited circumstances and then only if the Court of Appeals precertifies that his petition meets one of those narrow criteria.

Rule 60(b) is inconsistent with this statute and therefore, inapplicable if a Rule 60(b) motion is the substantive equivalent of a successive habeas application.

Under the successive petition statute, the sine qua non of a habeas corpus application is a claim, that is an asserted federal basis for relief from a state conviction.

If a Rule 60(b) motion seeks vindication of such a claim, it is sufficiently similar to a habeas corpus application that it must be subject to the requirements that apply to successive petitions.

The motion here however, does not present such a claim.

It merely alleges that the Federal Courts misapplied the federal statute of limitations.

Although a Rule 60(b) motion attacking a Federal Court’s basis for denying a habeas petition on the merits may qualify as a successive habeas petition, a motion attacking only a non merits aspect of the first federal habeas proceeding may proceed under Rule 60(b).

There is a valid role for Rule 609b) in postconviction litigation and the Rule is already subject to limitations that reduce its friction with AEDPA.

Although, petitioner’s motion is properly brought under Rule 60(b), it does not present a sufficient basis to revisit the judgment denying habeas relief.

Relief under Rule 60(b) perpetual provision that petitioner invokes requires a showing of “extraordinary circumstances”.

Our resolution in Artuz of a Circuit split in a question of habeas procedure under AEDPA does not qualify as an extraordinary circumstance.

It is all the less extraordinary in petitioner’s case because he did not diligently pursue review of the District Court’s statute of limitations ruling.

For these reasons and others stated in our opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit.

Antonin Scalia:

Justice Breyer has filed a concurring oponion; Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Souter has joined.