Argued and Submitted, Portland, Oregon March 4, 2014
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. D.C. No. 3:08-cv-01261-AC. Malcolm F. Marsh, Senior District Judge, Presiding.
Todd H. Grover (argued), Ward Grover, LLP, Bend, Oregon, for Petitioner-Appellant.
Carolyn Alexander (argued), Senior Assistant Attorney General; Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General; Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, Salem, Oregon, for Respondent-Appellee.
Before: Alfred T. Goodwin, Stephen S. Trott, and William A. Fletcher, Circuit Judges.
TROTT, Circuit Judge
Today we decide whether the mental illness suffered by petitioner Steven Charles Forbess entitles him to equitable tolling of the statute of limitation for a writ of habeas corpus. We conclude that it does. During the relevant period, Forbess suffered from delusions so severe that he was unable to understand the need to timely file his petition, and the unique nature of those delusions made it impossible for him to timely file. We reverse and remand so that the district court may consider the merits of Forbess's petition.
In 1999, an Oregon state court jury convicted Forbess of the attempted murder, assault, kidnaping, and coercion of his former wife, Joanne. Forbess's direct appeal of that conviction ended when the Oregon Court of Appeals issued its final judgment on November 28, 2001. That judgment triggered the running of the one-year statute of limitation on Forbess's federal habeas
petition, though Forbess did not learn of the final judgment until April 2002.
On July 14, 2003, Forbess filed a state habeas petition challenging his conviction, which the state court rejected as improperly filed. It was not until Forbess met with an inmate legal assistant sometime before July 14, 2003, to help him with that state habeas petition that Forbess learned of the one-year limitation period for his federal habeas petition. Forbess also concedes on appeal that he is not entitled to equitable tolling after July 14, 2003, because he rationally understood the need to file after that date.
Forbess filed a petition for state post-conviction relief on October 30, 2003, which tolled the federal habeas statute of limitation until Forbess filed his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 federal habeas petition on October 22, 2008. Excluding the time that was statutorily tolled by Forbess's state post-conviction challenge, Forbess filed his federal habeas petition just over twenty-three months after the one-year statute of limitation had begun to run. The district ...