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Supreme Court eases time limit on habeas petitions

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Wall v. Kholi [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a defendant's plea for leniency tolls the statute of limitations for filing a federal petition for habeas corpus under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) [text, PDF]. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had reversed the district court's judgment that a petition for leniency is different from an appeal to correct legal errors and therefore does not result in a tolling of the statute of limitations under AEDPA. Agreeing with the First Circuit, Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court:

We hold that the phrase "collateral review" in § 2244(d)(2) means judicial review of a judgment in a proceeding that is not part of direct review. Because the parties agree that a motion to reduce sentence under Rhode Island law is not part of the direct review process, we hold that respondent's motion tolled the AEDPA limitation period and that his federal habeas petition was therefore timely.
Justice Antonin Scalia filed a separate opinion concurring in part.

The First Circuit's decision was in line with a Tenth Circuit ruling on the same issue, but the Third, Fourth and Eleventh Circuits had previously ruled that a petition for leniency does not toll the statute of limitations under AEDPA. The Supreme Court's ruling resolves the circuit split.

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