Yeh v. Martel

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 05-13-2014
  • Case #: 11-55625
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge Farris for the Court; Circuit Judges Bright and Hurwitz
  • Full Text Opinion

Neither limited mental ability nor limited knowledge of the English language are per se extraordinary circumstances that entitle a petitioner to an equitable tolling of the limitations period on a petition for Habeas Corpus.

Yow Ming Yeh (“Yeh”) was convicted of battery for biting a corrections officer while incarcerated. The time to appeal this conviction was one year following. Yeh failed to appeal within this time frame. After trying to appeal outside of the one-year time frame without success, the Yeh filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus. The district court dismissed the petition because the one-year statute of limitations had run on the battery conviction. On appeal Yeh argued that because of his limited knowledge of English and his history of mental illness, he was entitled to an equitable tolling period. Equitable tolling is proper where there are extraordinary circumstances and the petitioner has pursued his or her rights diligently. The panel disagreed that Yeh’s lack of English fluency was an extraordinary circumstance. It must be impossible for a petitioner to access any legal materials because of their language barrier for it to be an extraordinary circumstance. That was not the case here. Second, the panel did not agree that a history of mental illness was sufficiently severe to be an extraordinary circumstance. For a mental illness to meet this standard it must be so pervasive that the petitioner is unable of comprehending the need for a timely filing. Finally, the panel concluded that petitioner was not diligent in his pursuit of appeal. For those reasons, the panel affirmed the district court’s denial of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and concluded that the petitioner was not entitled to equitable tolling. AFFIRMED.

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