Curiel v. Miller, No. 11-56949 [July 25, 2016]
The en banc court reversed the three judge panel and reversed the district court’s judgment dismissing as untimely California state prisoner Curiel’s federal habeas corpus petition. To the State’s motion to dismiss Curiel’s habeas petition as untimely, he argued that 1 year statute of limitations should be statutorily tolled for the period during which his state habeas petitions were pending, and also that he was entitled to equitable tolling due to trial counsel’s alleged delay in returning his client file. Here, the California Supreme Court’s denial of Curiel’s state petition only cited to failure to properly plead his claims. The court held that “the California Supreme Court’s denial of Curiel’s third habeas petition with reference to Swain and Duvall – and not a California case dealing with untimeliness – means that the California Supreme Court rejected Curiel’s petition as insufficiently pleaded. And a state petition that was timely filed but inadequately pleaded under California law is considered ‘properly filed’ and entitles a federal petitioner to statutory tolling under § 2244(d)(2).” Here, the California Supreme Court’s order finding his petition timely, “depriving the contrary rulings by the Superior Court and Court of Appeal of all force and effect.” They then concluded that Curiel’s petition was timely filed, without reaching the question of equitable tolling.