Argued by Telephone Conference Call and Submitted April 11, 1997.
KOZINSKI, Circuit Judge.
We decide whether the one-year time limit for filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus, enacted in section 101 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), P.L. 104-132, 1996 U.S.C.C.A.N. (110 Stat.) 1214, 1217, is a statute of limitations subject to equitable tolling or an inflexible limitation on federal court jurisdiction.
Real party in interest Rodney Gene Beeler was convicted of first-degree murder by a California jury and sentenced to death. He unsuccessfully pursued a direct appeal in the state courts, see People v. Beeler, 9 Cal.4th 953, 39 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 891 P.2d 153 (1995), ending with the Supreme Court's denial of his petition for writ of certiorari on January 8, 1996. See Beeler v. California, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 723, 133 L.Ed.2d 675 (1996). Prior to that date, the California Supreme Court had also denied Beeler's petition for writ of habeas corpus. Having thus exhausted his state remedies, Beeler filed a pro se request for appointment of counsel and stay of execution in federal district court. The court granted Beeler's motion for a stay and appointed counsel, Scott Braden and Karen Schryver, to represent him. It also entered an order requiring Beeler to file his habeas petition by March 25, 1997.
Before Beeler's petition was prepared, Braden gave notice that he planned to take employment in Oklahoma and asked the district court for leave to withdraw. The district court granted Braden's request, and
On February 3, 1997, Beeler's lawyers asked the district court to extend the filing date for his writ of habeas corpus and equitably toll AEDPA's one-year deadline for filing his petition. The district court granted Beeler's motion. It concluded that the time limit was not a jurisdictional bar but a statute of limitations subject to tolling, and gave Beeler until October 13, 1997, to file his petition. Calderon, the warden of San Quentin, then filed a petition for writ of mandamus in this court, seeking review of the district court's decision.
II. Propriety of Mandamus Review
Although a district court's interlocutory decisions are not generally reviewable, we are authorized to entertain petitions for writ of mandamus in cases that present "questions of law of major importance to the administration of the district courts." State of Arizona v. United States Dist. Ct. (In re Cement Antitrust Litig.), 688 F.2d 1297, 1307 (9th Cir.1982). We decide whether review by mandamus is appropriate by weighing the following five factors:
Calderon v. United States Dist. Ct., 98 F.3d 1102, 1105 (9th Cir.1996) (citing Bauman v. United States Dist. Ct., 557 F.2d 650, 654-55 (9th Cir.1977), aff'd 459 U.S. 1190, 103 S.Ct. 1173, 75 L.Ed.2d 425 (1983)), petition for cert. filed, ___ U.S.L.W. ___, (Mar. 17, 1997) (No. 96-8402).
Here, the first two Bauman factors militate in favor of reaching the question raised by Calderon's petition. The essence of the state's claim is that it is entitled to go forward with Beeler's execution if he does not file a petition by AEDPA's anniversary date, April 23, 1997. By its nature, this claim cannot be vindicated on direct appeal from a final judgment, which would take place long after that date. The fifth Bauman factor is also satisfied here. A large number of state prisoners are in Beeler's position, needing to file petitions quickly in order to comply with the Act, but uncertain as to whether AEDPA's time-limit can be extended. As no other circuit has yet decided this question, and we are rapidly approaching the one-year anniversary of AEDPA's passage, the question presented by Calderon's petition must be answered as promptly as possible. We therefore turn to the merits of the petition.
III. Mechanics of the Time Limit
Prior to AEDPA's enactment, state prisoners had almost unfettered discretion in deciding when to file a federal habeas petition.
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).
Under this section, Beeler is required to file his habeas petition within one year of the date his process of direct review came to an end. The Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari on January 8, 1996, so if AEDPA's one-year limit were deemed to start prior to April 24, 1996, the date of the statute's enactment, Beeler's last chance to file a habeas petition would have expired on January 7, 1997.
But applying section 101's limitation period in this fashion would impermissibly "attach new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment." Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 270, 114 S.Ct. 1483, 1499, 128 L.Ed.2d 229 (1994). Those state prisoners whose year had elapsed prior to AEDPA's enactment would be altogether barred from filing petitions that would have been timely under the old regime. Those prisoners who had some days remaining before their year elapsed would face dire consequences for having wasted the time prior to AEDPA's enactment: They would have to investigate, prepare and file a petition in however much time remained — perhaps as little as one day.
We therefore conclude — along with the Second and Seventh Circuits — that AEDPA's one-year time limit did not begin to run against any state prisoner prior to the statute's date of enactment. See Reyes v. Keane, 90 F.3d 676, 679 (2d Cir.1996) (allowing AEDPA's time limit to run from date prior to enactment "would be entirely unfair and a severe instance of retroactivity"); Lindh v. Murphy, 96 F.3d 856, 866 (7th Cir.1996) (en banc) ("Courts treat a reduction in the statute of limitations as a rule for new cases only."), cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 117 S.Ct. 726, 136 L.Ed.2d 643 (1997); see also United States v. Lopez, 100 F.3d 113, 116-17 (10th Cir.1996) (rejecting retroactive application of parallel one-year limit for filing of federal petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255). No petition filed on or before April 23, 1997 — one year from the date of AEDPA's enactment — may be dismissed for failure to comply with the section 101's time limit. See Texaco, Inc. v. Short, 454 U.S. 516, 527 n. 21, 102 S.Ct. 781, 791 n. 21, 70 L.Ed.2d 738 (1982) (new statutes of limitation must allow "a reasonable time after they take effect for the commencement of suits upon existing
IV. Can the One-Year Limit Be Tolled?
Beeler, along with many other prisoners, thus has at least until April 23, 1997, to file his habeas petition. The district court went one step farther and, based on its conclusion that AEDPA's one-year limit could be equitably tolled, extended Beeler's deadline to October 17, 1997. We will upset this decision on petition for writ of mandamus only if the district court's decision was "clearly erroneous as a matter of law." Bauman, 557 F.2d at 654-55.
The district court's interpretation of AEDPA's limitation period was not, however, clearly erroneous. It was, rather, clearly correct. Unlike other parts of AEDPA, section 101 is remarkably lucid. It is phrased only as a "period of limitation," and "does not speak in jurisdictional terms or refer in any way to the jurisdiction of the district courts." Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 394, 102 S.Ct. 1127, 1133, 71 L.Ed.2d 234 (1982). Nor does the jurisdictional provision of the habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2241, "limit jurisdiction to those cases in which there has been a timely filing" in the district court. Zipes, 455 U.S. at 393, 102 S.Ct. at 1132. Indeed, both the Supreme Court and this court have repeatedly held that timing provisions even more unyieldingly phrased than AEDPA's are statutes of limitations subject to tolling. See, e.g., Burnett v. New York Cent. R.R., 380 U.S. 424, 426, 85 S.Ct. 1050, 1053, 13 L.Ed.2d 941 (1965) ("[N]o action shall be maintained ... unless commenced within three years of the day the cause of action accrued."); William G. Tadlock Const. v. United States Dept. of Defense, 91 F.3d 1335, 1340 (9th Cir.1996) ("[C]omplaint may not be filed more than 180 days after the later of the date on which the violation is alleged to have occurred or was discovered.").
AEDPA's legislative history, were it necessary to consult it, speaks with equally resounding clarity. Neither the conference report, see H.R.Conf.Rep. 104-518, at 111 (1996), reprinted in 1996 U.S.C.C.A.N. 944, nor any statements of individual House or Senate members, describe the one-year limitation as a restriction on federal court jurisdiction. Many members of Congress — including AEDPA's authors in the Senate and its sponsors in the House — did, however, describe section 101 as a "statute of limitations." See, e.g., 142 Cong.Rec. S3472 (daily ed. Apr. 17, 1996) (statement of Sen. Specter) (AEDPA designed to "impose a statute of limitations on the filing of habeas corpus petitions"); 141 Cong.Rec. S7805 (daily ed. June 7, 1995) (statement of Sen. Hatch) (under current law, there is no "statute of limitations" on filing habeas petitions); 142 Cong.Rec. H3606 (daily ed. Apr. 18, 1996) (statement of Rep. Hyde) ("Now, we have a 1-year statute of limitations in habeas.");
Calderon nevertheless argues that allowing the one-year limit to be tolled will undermine the statute's purpose "to halt the unacceptable delay which has developed in the federal habeas process." Petition for Writ of Mandamus, at 12. A one-year statute of limitations will, however, serve this goal quite well; not as well as a strict jurisdictional bar to be sure, but section 101's time-limit will doubtless speed up the habeas process considerably. Equitable tolling will not be available in most cases, as extensions of time will only be granted if "extraordinary circumstances" beyond a prisoner's control make it impossible to file a petition on time. Alvarez-Machain v. United States, 107 F.3d 696, 701 (9th Cir.1997). We have no doubt that district judges will take seriously Congress's desire to accelerate the federal habeas process, and will only authorize extensions when this high hurdle is surmounted.
Calderon also claims that interpreting section 101 as a tollable statute of limitations is inconsistent with the Act's overall structure. This claim is based on the observation that section 107 of the Act — which contains a parallel timing provision governing prisoners represented by competent counsel on state habeas — expressly provides for a 30-day tolling period.
The Supreme Court has cautioned against using this kind of negative inferential reasoning, because such "excursion[s] into extrapolation of legislative intent" are most often "entirely unilluminating." Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 83 n. 14, 95 S.Ct. 2080, 2090 n. 14, 45 L.Ed.2d 26 (1975). Indeed, the more reasonable inference to be drawn from Congress's inclusion of a 30-day tolling limit in section 107 runs contrary to that proffered by Calderon. Statutes of limitations are presumptively subject to equitable tolling. See Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 95-96, 111 S.Ct. 453, 457, 112 L.Ed.2d 435 (1990) ("[T]he same rebuttable presumption of equitable tolling applicable to suits against private defendants should also apply to suits against the United States."); United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 94 n. 10, 105 S.Ct. 1785, 1792 n. 10, 85 L.Ed.2d 64 (1985) ("Statutory filing deadlines are generally subject to the defenses of waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling."). Section 107's 30-day tolling limit was therefore probably designed to cap what would have otherwise been an unlimited tolling period. Because section 101 contains no similar restriction, we can infer that Congress did not intend to upset the normal default rule allowing longer tolling periods.
Every relevant signal — from the Act's plain language, to its legislative history, to its structure — points in the same direction: Section 101's one-year timing provision is a statute of limitations subject to equitable tolling, not a jurisdictional bar.
V. The District Court's Decision to Toll
Having decided that section 101's time-limit can be tolled, we have no basis for upsetting the district court's decision to allow Beeler more time to file his petition. The district court found that Beeler's lead counsel, Scott Braden, had diligently pursued the preparation of Beeler's petition. Braden, however, withdrew after accepting employment in another state, and much of the work product he left behind was not usable by replacement counsel — a turn of events over which Beeler had no control. There were thus "extraordinary circumstances" which
Petition for writ of mandamus
28 U.S.C. § 2263(b)(3)(B).