August 14, 2013
DONALD L. HOWELL, aka Donald Lee Howell, Petitioner-Appellant,
STEVE FRANKE, Superintendent, Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Defendant-Respondent.
Submitted on July 05, 2013.
Umatilla County Circuit Court CV110819, Christopher R. Brauer, Judge.
James N. Varner filed the brief for appellant.
Mary H. Williams, Deputy Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Ryan Kahn, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.
Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Nakamoto, Judge, and Egan, Judge.
Petitioner appeals a judgment dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief. The state concedes that the post-conviction court erred and that the judgment should be reversed. We agree that the post-conviction court erred and, accordingly, reverse.
Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief and, on the same day, a motion to appoint counsel. The court did not rule on petitioner's motion to appoint counsel. Instead, two days after the petition was filed, the court dismissed the petition as "[f]iled outside the statute of limitations." As the state concedes, when a petitioner for post-conviction relief moves to appoint counsel, the post-conviction court may not dismiss the petition before appointing counsel and holding a hearing unless it dismisses the petition as meritless. Ware v. Hall, 342 Or 444, 452-53, 154 P.3d 118 (2007); Kumar v. Schiedler, 128 Or.App. 572, 576, 876 P.2d 808, rev den, 316 OR 142 (1993); Rodacker v. State of Oregon, 79 Or.App. 31, 34, 717 P.2d 659 (1986). Here, however, the court did not dismiss the petition as meritless, and, on this record, it would have erred in doing so because the timeliness of the petition appears to be disputable. See ORS 138.525. The court erred in dismissing the petition on timeliness grounds before appointing counsel and holding a hearing.
Reversed and remanded.