from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
HIGGINBOTHAM, SMITH, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:
decide whether Willie Jackson is entitled to equitable
tolling of limitations for his federal petition for writ of
habeas corpus. Because, under the specific circumstances
presented, equitable tolling is appropriate, we reverse and
was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to ninety
years. The Texas Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and
sentence on direct appeal, and the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals ("TCCA") denied his petition for review.
The Supreme Court denied Jackson's petition for writ of
certiorari on February 29, 2016, making his conviction
April 14, 2016, Jackson filed a pro se application
for state habeas relief. The TCCA denied it on July 13, 2016,
but Jackson did not receive notice. About a year later, on
July 20, 2017, Jackson wrote to the TCCA asking for a
"status update." Within a few days, the clerk sent
a letter saying that his application was denied, but Jackson
did not receive that letter. He wrote again on December 20,
2017, and the clerk again responded with a letter. On January
5, 2018-almost eighteen months after the TCCA had denied his
state application and almost six months after the one-year
limitations period for filing a federal habeas petition had
expired, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)- Jackson
finally received notice that his application had been denied.
The state concedes that he was not notified of the TCCA's
denial until January 5, 2018.
days later, on January 22, 2018, Jackson mailed a petition
for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He
explained that he was filing his federal petition more than a
year after his conviction became final because he did not
receive notice that the TCCA had denied his application for
eighteen months after its decision. The petition was referred
to a magistrate judge ("MJ"), who recommended
denying it as time-barred. The MJ decided that Jackson was
not entitled to equitable tolling because, by waiting fifteen
months after filing his state application to ask for a status
update, he had failed to "show[ ] diligence."
filed objections to the MJ's recommendation. The district
court overruled them, accepted the recommendation, and denied
the petition "with prejudice as barred by the statute of
limitations." The court also denied a certificate of
appealability ("COA"). Jackson timely appealed, and
we appointed counsel. We then granted a COA "as to the
equitable-tolling claim that the state court delayed
notification that it had denied the habeas application."
prisoner generally must file for federal habeas relief within
a year after his conviction becomes final. 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d)(1)(A). That limitation period is tolled, however,
during the pendency of a properly filed application for state
habeas relief. Id. § 2244(d)(2). Additionally,
a court may equitably toll limitations if the petitioner
establishes "(1) that he has been pursuing his rights
diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance
stood in his way and prevented timely filing."
Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
does not dispute that the district court correctly tolled
limitations while his state habeas application was pending.
He contends, however, that the court also should have
equitably tolled while he waited for notice from the TCCA
that it had denied his state habeas application. We agree.
tolling is "a discretionary doctrine that turns on the
facts and circumstances of a particular case."
Fisher v. Johnson, 174 F.3d 710, 713 (5th Cir.
1999). It "does not lend itself to bright-line rules,
but we draw on general principles to guide when equitable
tolling is appropriate." Id. "We [are]
cautious not to apply the statute of limitations too
harshly," especially when reviewing dismissal of a