Rosales-Martinez v. Palmer

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 06-03-2014
  • Case #: 12-15077
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Hellerstein for the Court; Circuit Judges Callahan and M. Smith, Jr.
  • Full Text Opinion

If a prisoner’s claim for relief is based on an unlawful sentence, then the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the conviction or sentence is invalidated.

Pedro Rosales-Martinez appeals the dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim due to the alleged tolling of the statute of limitations. Rosales-Martinez was convicted of four counts, based on his dealings with a controlled substance, and sentenced to serve ten to twenty-five years in prison. Just over four years after his sentence began, on December 2, 2008, Rosales-Martinez’s habeas corpus petition was granted. On December 1, 2010, Rosales-Martinez filed this § 1983 lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is two years in Nevada, and begins to accrue when the claimant “knew or had reason to know of Defendants’ [relevant actions].” The district court dismissed Rosales-Martinez’s case because he knew or had reason to know of such actions when he filed his habeas corpus petition. This decision was incorrect. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Heck v. Humphrey, the Ninth Circuit “. . . recently held, a prisoner’s claim for relief based on an unlawful sentence does not accrue until his sentence is invalidated, necessarily a later date than when he learned of the prosecutor’s unlawful actions.” Because Rosales-Martinez’s sentence was invalidated on December 2, 2008, the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim began to accrue on that same date. Nonetheless, just after Rosales-Martinez’s sentence was invalidated, he agreed to plead guilty to one of the four original counts. The panel was concerned that this reconviction meant that his sentence had not been sufficiently invalidated. Thus, the panel remanded the case to determine if the § 1983 claim was consistent with the judgment and facts pleaded in the habeas corpus claim. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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