March 07, 2011

Supreme Court Decides Wall v. Kholi

On March 7, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Wall v. Kholi, No. 09-868, holding that for purposes of tolling the habeas corpus deadline of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), the phrase "collateral review" in 28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(2) means judicial review of a judgment in a proceeding that is not part of direct review.  A motion to reduce sentence under state law constitutes such "collateral review" and tolls the period to file a habeas petition.

Defendant Khalil Kholi was convicted of 10 counts of first-degree sexual assault and sentenced to consecutive life sentences.  In addition to his direct appeal, Kholi filed a motion for reduction of his sentence, as permitted under state law.  The court denied the motion, and the state supreme court affirmed.  Kholi later filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court.  Under the AEDPA, if the pendency of the motion to reduce sentence tolled the period during which Kholi could bring a habeas corpus petition, his petition was timely; if the pendency of the motion did not toll the habeas deadline, his petition was not timely.  The district court held that the period of the motion's pendency did not toll the habeas deadline, and dismissed the petition as untimely.  The First Circuit reversed. 

The Supreme Court affirmed the First Circuit's reversal of the trial court's decision.  The Court interpreted 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2), which tolls the AEDPA's one-year limitation period during the pendency of "a properly filed application for State postconviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim."  Noting that the AEDPA does not define "collateral review," the Court looked to the ordinary meaning of "collateral" and the Court's own historical treatment of the term in other contexts.   The Court concluded that the term means "a judicial reexamination of a judgment or claim in a proceeding outside of the direct review process," and held that a motion to reduce a sentence falls within that definition. 

Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.  Justice Scalia also joined in the decision with the exception of a single footnote and filed a concurring opinion. 

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