Friday, July 7th, 2023

Statute of limitations for habeas corpus claims requires a claim-by-claim approach.

In Clemente v. Lee, No. 21-279-pr (2d Cir. July 5, 2023) (Pooler, Sack, and Park), the Circuit, deciding an issue of first impression for this Court, held that the statute of limitations for a habeas corpus petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), requires a claim-by-claim approach — meaning that each claim raised in the petition must be analyzed separately for timeliness. The Court rejected the petitioner’s argument that the statute of limitations requires only that at least one claim in the petition be timely.

Clemente, the petitioner, was convicted in New York State of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon. He ultimately filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Eastern District of New York. The district court dismissed some of the claims asserted in the petition as time-barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).

The Second Circuit affirmed. Joining all other circuits that have addressed the issue, the Court ruled that the timeliness of claims in  a habeas petition “must be analyzed on a claim-by-claim basis.” It rejected Clemente argument’s that “all claims raised in a habeas petition are timely so long as at least one claim asserted therein is timely under the one-year statute of limitations.” That argument, the Court reasoned, was incompatible with § 2244(d)’s structure, would make it “impossible for courts to identify the applicable statute of limitations,” and would undermine Congress’s purpose and intent in enacting the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).

Because the district court properly dismissed the claims at issue as time-barred, the Second Circuit affirmed. It also rejected Clemente’s argument that his claims were timely under the doctrine of “equitable tolling.”

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