Gonzalez v. Thaler

PETITIONER:Rafael Arriaza Gonzalez
RESPONDENT:Rick Thaler, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division

DOCKET NO.: 10-895
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 565 US (2012)
GRANTED: Jun 13, 2011
ARGUED: Nov 02, 2011
DECIDED: Jan 10, 2012

Ann O’Connell – Assistant to the Solicitor Gen­eral, Department of Justice, for United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent
Jonathan F. Mitchell – Solicitor General of Texas, for the respondent
Patricia A. Millett – for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Raphael Arriaza Gonzalez was convicted of murder in Texas state court on June 14, 2005, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He filed an appeal to the Texas intermediate court of appeals, which affirmed his conviction on July 12, 2006. Gonzalez’s counsel did not file a petition for discretionary review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals within the 30-day timeframe permitted by state law. 2. On July 19, 2007, Gonzalez filed in Texas state court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied that petition on the merits on November 21, 2007. On January 24, 2008, Gonzalez filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.


Was there jurisdiction to issue a certificate of appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c) and to adjudicate Gonzalez’s appeal?

Did the application for a writ of habeas corpus run out of time under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) due to the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review?

Media for Gonzalez v. Thaler

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 02, 2011 in Gonzalez v. Thaler

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 10, 2012 in Gonzalez v. Thaler

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We have opinions this morning beginning with the opinion by Justice Sotomayor in case 10-895, Gonzalez versus Phelan.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Petitioner Gonzalez was convicted in Texas state court.

After the intermediate state appellate court affirmed his conviction, Gonzalez allowed his time for seeking review with the State’s highest court for criminal appeals to expire.

The intermediate state appellate court, however, did not issue its mandate until roughly six weeks later.

When Gonzalez later filed a federal habeas petition, the District Court dismissed Gonzalez’s petition as time barred by the one year statute of limitations in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, AEDPA, it’s easier to say that, of 1996.

The District Court so held based on its determination that Gonzalez’s judgment had become final when his time for seeking review in the State’s highest court expired not when the intermediate state court issued its mandate.

Gonzalez then sought a certificate of appealability, known as COA, to appeal the District Court’s order.

A Sixth Circuit judge granted Gonzalez a COA on the timeliness issue.

The COA, however, failed to indicate a constitutional issue.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed.

It agreed with the District Court that Gonzalez’s petition was time barred.

The Fifth Circuit did not mention and the State did not raise any defect in the COA.

When Gonzalez petitioned this Court for review, the State argued for the first time that the Fifth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the appeal based on a defect in the COA.

This case requires us to interpret two provisions of AEDPA.

The first provision, 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(3) requires that the COA “shall indicate which specific issue” on which the petitioner has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.

For the reasons we explain in our opinion filed today, we hold that 2253(c)(3) is a mandatory, but nonjurisdictional requirement.

Accordingly, a judge’s failure to indicate the requisite constitutional issue in a COA does not deprive a Court of Appeals of subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the habeas petitioner’s appeal.

The second provision, 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A) establishes a one year limitations period for state prisoners to file federal habeas petitions running from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.”

As explained in our opinion, we hold that for a state prisoner who does not seek review in the State’s highest court, the judgment becomes final on the date that the time for seeking such review expires.

Accordingly, Gonzalez’s judgment became final on the date that his time for seeking review in the State’s highest court for criminal appeals expired.

Gonzalez’s federal habeas petition was therefore untimely.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is affirmed.

Justice Scalia has filed dissenting opinion.