Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 4 (2003)

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Cite as: 537 U. S. 522 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

court mandate as the triggering date. For the purpose of starting the clock on 2255's one-year limitation period, we hold, a judgment of conviction becomes final when the time expires for filing a petition for certiorari contesting the appellate court's affirmation of the conviction.


In 1997, petitioner Erick Cornell Clay was convicted of arson and distribution of cocaine base in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. On November 23, 1998, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed his convictions. That court's mandate issued on December 15, 1998. See Fed. Rules App. Proc. 40(a)(1) and 41(b) (when no petition for rehearing is filed, a court of appeals' mandate issues 21 days after entry of judgment). Clay did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari. The time in which he could have petitioned for certiorari expired on February 22, 1999, 90 days after entry of the Court of Appeals' judgment, see this Court's Rule 13(1), and 69 days after the issuance of the appellate court's mandate.

On February 22, 2000—one year and 69 days after the Court of Appeals issued its mandate and exactly one year after the time for seeking certiorari expired—Clay filed a motion in the District Court, pursuant to 28 U. S. C. 2255, to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Congress has prescribed "[a] 1-year period of limitation" for such motions "run[ning] from the latest of" four specified dates. 2255,

¶ 6. Of the four dates, the only one relevant in this case, as in the generality of cases, is the first: "the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final." 2255, ¶ 6(1).

Relying on Gendron v. United States, 154 F. 3d 672, 674 (CA7 1998) (per curiam), the District Court stated that "when a federal prisoner in this circuit does not seek certiorari . . . , the conviction becomes 'final' on the date the appellate court issues the mandate in the direct appeal." App. to Pet. for Cert. 8a. Because Clay filed his 2255 mo-


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