Gonzalez v. Crosby
545 U.S. ___ (2005)

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SYLLABUS
OCTOBER TERM, 2004
GONZALEZ V. CROSBY


SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

GONZALEZ v. CROSBY, SECRETARY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 04–6432.Argued April 25, 2005—Decided June 23, 2005

Petitioner’s federal habeas corpus petition was dismissed as time barred when the District Court concluded that the federal limitations period was not tolled while petitioner’s motion for postconviction relief was pending in state court. After petitioner abandoned his attempt to seek review of the District Court’s decision, this Court decided that a state postconviction relief petition can toll the federal statute of limitations even if, like petitioner’s, the petition is ultimately dismissed as procedurally barred. Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U. S. 4. Petitioner filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) motion for relief from the judgment, which the District Court denied. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial, holding that the Rule 60(b) motion was in substance a second or successive habeas petition, which under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U. S. C. §2244(b), cannot be filed without precertification by the court of appeals.

Held:

   1. Because petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion challenged only the District Court’s previous ruling on AEDPA’s statute of limitations, it is not the equivalent of a successive habeas petition and can be ruled upon by the District Court without precertification by the Eleventh Circuit. Pp. 3–11.

      (a) Rule 60(b) applies in §2254 habeas proceedings only “to the extent that [it is] not inconsistent with” applicable federal statutes and rules. §2254 Rule 11. Because §2244(b) applies only where a court acts pursuant to a prisoner’s “habeas corpus application,” the question here is whether a Rule 60(b) motion is such an application. The text of §2244(b) shows that, for these purposes, a habeas application is a filing containing one or more “claims.” Other federal habeas statutes and this Court’s decisions also make clear that a “claim” is an asserted federal basis for relief from a state-court conviction. If a Rule 60(b) motion contains one or more “claims,” the motion is, if not in substance a “habeas corpus application,” at least similar enough that failing to subject it to AEDPA’s restrictions on successive habeas petitions would be “inconsistent with” the statute. A Rule 60(b) motion can be said to bring a “claim” if it seeks to add a new ground for relief from the state conviction or attacks the federal court’s previous resolution of a claim on the merits, though not if it merely attacks a defect in the federal habeas proceedings’ integrity. Pp. 3–8.

      (b) When no “claim” is presented, there is no basis for contending that a Rule 60(b) motion should be treated like a habeas petition. If neither the motion itself nor the federal judgment from which it seeks relief substantively addresses federal grounds for setting aside the movant’s state conviction, allowing the motion to proceed on its own terms creates no inconsistency with the habeas statute or rules. Petitioner’s motion, which alleges that the federal courts misapplied §2244(d)’s statute of limitations, fits this description. Nothing in Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U. S. 538, suggests that entertaining a filing confined to a nonmerits aspect of the first federal habeas proceeding is “inconsistent with” AEDPA. Pp. 8–11.

   2. Under the proper Rule 60(b) standards, the District Court was correct to deny relief. The change in the law worked by Artuz is not an “extraordinary circumstance” justifying relief under Rule 60(b)(6), and it is made all the less extraordinary by the lack of diligence that petitioner showed in seeking direct appellate review of the statute-of-limitations issue. Pp. 11–13.

366 F. 3d 1253, affirmed.

   Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a concurring opinion. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter, J., joined.

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