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Polk v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 21, 2019

CHESTER LEE POLK JR., Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann M. Lekar, Judge.

         A person seeking postconviction relief appeals the dismissal of his second petition as untimely.

          Thomas J. O'Flaherty of O'Flaherty Law Firm, Bettendorf, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Bridget A. Chambers, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and May, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         The question here is timing. The district court dismissed Chester Polk Jr.'s second petition for postconviction relief (PCR) as beyond the statute of limitations. The dismissal predated Allison v. State, 914 N.W.2d 866, 891 (Iowa 2018). Allison held the filing of a second PCR petition-alleging ineffective assistance of first PCR counsel-relates back to the date of the original petition if "filed promptly" after the first PCR action. 914 N.W.2d at 891. On appeal, Polk argues Allison "appears to encompass [his] situation."

         Because Polk waited nearly six months to file his second PCR petition after the voluntary dismissal of his first PCR action, he did not meet the "prompt" filing mandate in Allison.[1] We thus affirm the dismissal.[2]

         Dismissal means Polk's forgery conviction stays in place. Polk pleaded guilty to forgery as a habitual offender. The district court entered judgment on that conviction on February 3, 2014. Polk received a suspended sentence. But in June 2015, the court revoked his probation and sent him to prison for the indeterminate fifteen-year term. Polk then filed a notice of appeal from his conviction that the supreme court dismissed as untimely. Because Polk's direct appeal was not viable, the three-year clock for filing a PCR application started on the date of his conviction. See Iowa Code § 822.3 (2017). The parties agree the statute of limitations expired on February 3, 2017.

         In June 2015, well within the three-year limitations period, Polk filed his first PCR application. The district court denied relief. Polk timely appealed but voluntarily dismissed that appeal before our appellate courts could weigh in. Procedendo issued on November 15, 2016, a little more than two months before the three-year limitations period expired.

         Nearly six months passed before Polk filed his second PCR petition on May 8, 2017. In that petition, he alleged both his criminal and PCR counsel provided ineffective assistance. In January 2018, the district court dismissed Polk's second PCR application as untimely, citing Dible v. State, 557 N.W.2d 881 (Iowa 1996), abrogated in part on other grounds by Harrington v. State, 659 N.W.2d 509, 521 (Iowa 2003). Dible held ineffectiveness of first PCR counsel did not fit within the "ground of fact" exception to the section 822.3 statute of limitations, and thus did not excuse filing a second PCR after three years. 557 N.W.2d at 885.

         In June 2018, the supreme court issued Allison. While not outright overruling Dible, the Allison majority opted to "qualify Dible" by allowing a second PCR application to relate back to the time of filing the first PCR where three conditions existed. Allison, 914 N.W.2d at 890. First, the original PCR petition alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel had to be "timely filed per section 822.3." Id. at 891. Second, the successive PCR petition must allege "postconviction counsel was ineffective in presenting the ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim." Id. And third, the successive petition must be "filed promptly after the conclusion of the first PCR action." Id.

         Polk failed to meet that third condition. A gap of almost six months between his voluntary dismissal of the first PCR appeal and filing the second PCR petition does not fit the definition of prompt. See Cook v. State, No. 17-1245, 2019 WL 719163, at *4 n.6 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2019) (noting Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1816 (unabr. ed. 2002), defines "promptly" as "in a prompt manner; at once; immediately, quickly").

         On appeal, Polk references the "filed promptly" language from Allison. But he does not argue with any detail how the timing of his second petition satisfied that standard. After he voluntarily dismissed his first appeal, he still had more than two months before the statute of limitations expired on February 3, 2017. He then waited until May 8, 2017, before filing his second PCR petition. Those months of delay belie the quick action Allison envisioned when adopting its "variant" on the equitable tolling doctrine.[3]See 914 N.W.2d at 891; see also Kelly v. State, No. 17-0382, 2018 WL 3650287, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. ...


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