United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY GRANTING PETITIONER EQUITABLE TOLLING
William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge
state conviction habeas action, Anastazia Schmid (“Ms.
Schmid”) challenges her 2002 convictions for murder and
related offenses. Ms. Schmid filed the instant petition for a
writ of habeas corpus on February 11, 2014. This Court denied
her petition as untimely on June 24, 2014. The Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded
the case with instructions to consider holding an evidentiary
hearing on the issue of equitable tolling. Dkt. 49.
Schmid alleges that the state post-conviction court
unreasonably determined that her trial counsel was not
ineffective when he failed to demand a competency hearing
before trial and when he failed to assert a justifiable
reasonable force defense. While Ms. Schmid concedes that her
petition was filed beyond the one-year limitations period
established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A),
she argues that she is entitled to equitable tolling because
she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(“PTSD”) that was triggered by working on her
legal case, and because she lacked access to her legal file
until after the one-year limitations period had expired. The
respondent argues that Ms. Schmid is not entitled to
equitable tolling both because no extraordinary circumstance
prevented her from timely filing her petition and because she
did not act with diligence.
evidentiary hearing on the issue of equitable tolling was
held on February 15, 2019. Dkt. 101. Ms. Schmid was present.
She was represented by pro bono counsel Joshua
defendant appeared by counsel. Documentary evidence was
submitted, as well as testimony from Ms. Schmid; Michael
Troemel, her post-conviction counsel; and Sharon Samsell, a
mental health counselor who counseled Ms. Schmid at Rockville
Correctional Facility. For the reasons explained in this
Entry, the Court finds that Ms. Schmid is entitled to
equitable tolling and that her petition was therefore timely
attempt to “curb delays, to prevent
‘retrials' on federal habeas, and to give effect to
state convictions to the extent possible under law, ”
Congress, as part of AEDPA, revised several statutes
governing federal habeas relief. Williams v. Taylor,
529 U.S. 362, 404 (2000). “Under 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d)(1)(A), a state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief
has just one year after his conviction becomes final in state
court to file his federal petition.” Gladney v.
Pollard, 799 F.3d 889, 894 (7th Cir. 2015). “The
one-year clock is stopped, however, during the time the
petitioner's ‘properly filed' application for
state postconviction relief ‘is pending.'”
Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 201 (2006) (quoting
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2)).
petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling if he can
establish that he has “‘(1) . . . been pursuing
his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary
circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely
filing.'” Socha v. Boughton, 763 F.3d 674,
684 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Holland v. Florida, 560
U.S. 631, 649 (2010)). These two “elements” are
distinct. Menominee Indian Tribe of Wis. v.
United States, 136 S.Ct. 750, 756 (2016). The diligence
element “covers those affairs within the litigant's
control; the extraordinary-circumstances prong, by contrast,
is meant to cover matters outside its control.”
Id. It is the petitioner's “burden to
establish both [elements].” Socha, 763 F.3d at
683. A petitioner need demonstrate only “reasonable
diligence not maximum feasible diligence” in pursuing
her rights. Holland, 560 U.S. at 649; see also
Moore v. Knight, 368 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2004)
(noting that “a diligence inquiry should take into
account that prisoners are limited by their physical
not a chimera-something that exists only in the imagination,
equitable tolling is an extraordinary remedy that is rarely
granted.” Carpenter v. Douma, 840 F.3d 867,
870 (7th Cir. 2016) (citations and quotation marks omitted);
see Socha, 763 F.3d at 684 (“[T]olling is
rare; it is reserved for extraordinary circumstances far
beyond the litigant's control that prevented timely
filing.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted).
Seventh Circuit has recognized mental incompetency as a
ground for equitable tolling. Davis v. Humphreys,
747 F.3d 497, 499 (7th Cir. 2014). Tolling is only
appropriate “if the illness in fact prevents the
sufferer from managing his affairs and thus from
understanding his legal rights and acting upon them.”
Obriecht v. Foster, 727 F.3d 744, 750-751 (7th Cir.
2013) (quoting Miller v. Runyon, 77 F.3d 189, 191
(7th Cir. 1996)).
Seventh Circuit has also recognized a prisoner's lack of
access to their legal documents as a ground for equitable
Even the most seasoned attorneys do not, and should not,
draft motions, memoranda, or briefs without access to the
basic files underlying the actions. They likely would face
discipline if they attempted to reconstruct the case from
memory alone. To expect [a pro se petitioner] to
have a photographic memory permitting him to write a petition
without his file is unrealistic.
Socha, 763 F.3d at 686.
Seventh Circuit emphasized that when evaluating claims of
equitable tolling, courts should use “a
‘flexible' standard that encompasses all of the
circumstances [the petitioner] faced and the cumulative
effect of those circumstances.” Id. (quoting
Holland, 560 U.S. at 650).
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