U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Habeas Corpus – AEDPA — statute of limitations
A prisoner’s mental incompetence tolls the statute of limitations under the AEDPA.
“Although the Supreme Court has never addressed that question, courts of appeals regularly hold that mental incompetence justifies the tolling of federal periods of limitations. Barett v. Principi, 363 F.3d 1316, 1319–20 (Fed. Cir. 2004), collects decisions from most circuits. Our own leading decision is Miller v. Runyon, 77 F.3d 189 (7th Cir. 1996), which dealt with tolling the periods for federal employment-discrimination statutes. That there seem to be more recent decisions concerning mental incompetence and tolling under the AEDPA than under all other federal statutes put together may reflect the fact that outside prison an incompetent person often has a guardian, who must adhere to statutory time limits. Mentally incompetent persons in prison, by contrast, usually do not have the benefit of a guardian who attends to their legal problems—nor are prisoners who want to seek collateral relief automatically entitled to appointed counsel. Davis did not have a lawyer until this court issued a certificate of appealability, see 28 U.S.C. §2253(c), and appointed counsel for him under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. §3006A(a)(2)(B). The likelihood that mentally marginal prisoners will lack the assistance of guardians or lawyers means that, for them, it is especially important to follow the norm under which incompetence permits tolling.”
Vacated and Remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Gorence, Mag. J., Easterbrook, J.