Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yeh v. Martel (9th Cir. - May 13, 2014)

Judge Farris writes the majority opinion, joined by Judge Hurwitz, holding that the petitioner wasn't entitled to equitable tolling in a habeas case -- or even an evidentiary hearing on the issue -- even though (among other things) he didn't have a lawyer, didn't speak English and had a history of mental illness.

Judge Bright, sitting by designation from the Eighth Circuit, dissents.  Judge Bright concludes his dissent by saying:  "[T]he pro se petitioner in this case alleges a lack of English proficiency, a history of severe mental
impairment, and confinement in administrative segregation during the period in which he was required to file a federal habeas petition. If that person, Yeh, is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on equitable tolling, then who is?"

My sense is that if everyone's cards were laid on the table, the majority would respond that the problem is that if we give evidentiary hearings to everyone in prison who doesn't have a lawyer, doesn't speak English and has a history of mental illness, we'd have to give way too many hearings.  Because a nontrivial portion of those incarcerated in our prisons have precisely such attributes.