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Monday, July 18, 2005

Felix: Petition does not "relate back."

In Mayle v. Felix, No. 04-563 (U.S. June 23, 2005), the Supreme Court, in another AEDPA statute of limitations case, ruled that Rule 15(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows an amended pleading filed after the running of the statute of limitations to relate back to the filing date of the original pleading where the original and amended pleading "arise out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence," does not apply where the amended pleading asserts a new ground for relief supported by facts that differ in both time and type from those set forth in the original pleading. Mr. Felix was convicted of murder and robbery in California state court and sentenced to life. His conviction was affirmed on appeal and became final on August 12, 1997. Under the one-year AEDPA statute of limitations, he had until August 12, 1998 to file a federal habeas petition. He timely filed a pro se habeas petition in federal district court on May 8, 1998 in which he raised a Confrontation Clause challenge to the admission of a videotape recording of testimony of a prosecution witness. The court appointed counsel to represent Mr. Felix and on January 28, 1999, counsel filed an amendment to the habeas petition raising a Fifth Amendment challenge to the admission of statements made by Mr. Felix during a pretrial police interrogation claiming that the statements were coerced. Although the amended claim was filed after the one-year statute of limitations, Mr. Felix claimed that the amended claim related back to his timely-filed petition under Rule 15(c)(2) since both claims dealt with the unconstitutional admission of out-of-court statements during the prosecutor's case-in-chief. Reversing the Ninth Circuits' holding that the "transaction" for Rule 15(c)(2) purposes was Mr. Felix's criminal trial, the Supreme Court ruled that such a reading obliterates the statute of limitations. The Court ruled that relation back under Rule 15(c)(2) depends on the existence of a common core of operative facts uniting the original and newly asserted claim. Here, the Court found no such common core of operative facts.