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Helfrich v. Coleman

September 9, 2010

DENNIS W. HELFRICH, PETITIONER
v.
WARDEN BRIAN COLEMAN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Dennis W. Helfrich ("Petitioner" or "Helfrich"), an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette ("SCI Fayette") in LaBelle, Pennsylvania, commenced this pro se action by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus ("petition") pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Rec. Doc. No. 1.) The petition originally was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on March 3, 2010. By Order dated April 6, 2010, the petition was transferred to this Court in light of the fact that Helfrich is challenging his 2007 conviction in the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas, which is located in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (See Rec. Doc. No. 2.) For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed as untimely.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

On May 30, 2007, Helfrich entered a negotiated guilty plea in the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas to one (1) count of delivery of a controlled substance, one (1) count of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and one (1) count of recklessly endangering another person. (Doc. 13, Response, ¶ 1; Commonwealth v. Helfrich, Docket No. CP-54-CR-0001839-2006, at 8.*fn1 On the same date, Helfrich was sentenced to three (3) to eight (8) years confinement in a state correctional facility. (Commonwealth v. Helfrich, Docket No. CP-54-CR-0001839-2006, at 3, 8.)

Helfrich did not file a direct appeal from his judgment of sentence. (Id.; Doc. 13 ¶ 3.) On March 26, 2008, he filed a motion for post-conviction collateral relief, which was construed as a petition for relief under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9541, et seq. ("PCRA Petition"). (Commonwealth v. Helfrich, Docket No. CP-54-CR-0001839-2006, at 9.) On December 11, 2008, the PCRA court entered an Order granting in part and denying in part Helfrich's request for PCRA relief. (Id. at 12; Doc. 13 ¶ 4.) Specifically, the PCRA court reduced Helfrich's sentence to three (3) to seven (7) years confinement in a state correctional facility. (Doc. 13 ¶ 4.)

On January 9, 2009, Helfrich filed a notice of appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court from the PCRA court's December 11, 2008 Order. (Id. ¶ 5; Commonwealth v. Helfrich, 81 MDA 2009.*fn2 ) On July 28, 2009, the Superior Court dismissed Helfrich's appeal for failure to file a brief. (Doc. 13 ¶ 6; Commonwealth v. Helfrich, 81 MDA 2009.) On September 16, 2009, Helfrich filed a pro se "application for relief," which was denied on November 12, 2009. (Commonwealth v. Helfrich, 81 MDA 2009.) A search of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Docket Sheets reveals that Helfrich did not file an appeal from the Superior Court's dismissal with that Court.*fn3

B. Procedural Background

The instant petition was transferred from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and opened in this Court on April 8, 2010. On April 15, 2010, Helfrich filed a motion requesting leave to file a supplemental memorandum to provide procedural history regarding the decision of the PCRA court and the subsequent appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. (Rec. Doc. No. 6.) By Order dated April 19, 2010, Helfrich's motion was granted, and he was directed to file any supplemental memorandum he wished to file within forty-five (45) days. (Rec. Doc. No. 7.) Also, in accordance with United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1999), and Mason v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000), we issued a formal notice to Helfrich that he either could have his petition ruled on as filed, or withdraw his petition and file one all-inclusive § 2254 petition within the one-year statutory period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). (Id.) We directed Helfrich to file his notice of election indicating his choice within forty-five (45) days. (Id.)

Helfrich filed his supplemental memorandum on April 29, 2010. (Rec. Doc. No. 8.) On June 4, 2010, one (1) day after his notice of election was due to be filed, he mailed a letter to the Clerk of Court requesting information as to whether he was entitled to the appointment of counsel from the Federal Public Defender's Office or under the Criminal Justice Act. (Rec. Doc. No. 9.) The letter was docketed as a motion to appoint counsel. (Id.) By Order dated June 10, 2010, Helfrich's request for counsel was analyzed under the factors set forth in Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 (3d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1196 (1994). (Rec. Doc. No. 10.) We determined that the factors weighed against the appointment of counsel, and denied the motion without prejudice. (Id.) We also directed Helfrich to file his notice of election on or before June 24, 2010. (Id.) Helfrich filed his notice of election on June 18, 2010. (Rec. Doc. No. 11.)

Because it appeared that the petition may be barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), by Order dated July 22, 2010, we directed Respondents to file a response within twenty-one (21) days solely addressing whether the petition is timely. (Rec. Doc. No. 12.) Petitioner also was granted the opportunity to file a reply brief within fourteen (14) days of Respondents' submission. (Id. (citing United States v. Bendolph, 409 F.3d 155, 169 (3d Cir. 2005).)

On August 12, 2010, Respondents filed a response in which they contend that the instant petition should be dismissed because it was filed beyond the one (1) year limitation period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A).*fn4 (Rec. Doc. No. 13.) Although the deadline to file a reply brief has expired, Helfrich neither has filed his reply brief nor requested an extension of time in ...


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