By: Rolf Garcia-Gallont

The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal in Oaks v. Clark in an unpublished per curiam decision today, stating that it lacked jurisdiction because the Appellant had failed to file notice of appeal in a timely fashion.

In a footnote, the court noted that Oaks did not benefit from the “prison mailbox rule,” which originated in the 1988 Supreme Court decision of Houston v. Lack. Under the “prison mailbox rule,” a prisoner’s pro se petition for habeas corpus relief is deemed filed when the prisoner hands the petition over to prison authorities for mailing to the district court.

The problem in this case was that Oaks incorrectly addressed the notice of appeal to a state court, which is under no obligation to forward the notice to the proper district court. Therefore, even if prison authorities had dispatched the notice of appeal without delay, it would still not have reached the district court in time.

Because Oaks failed to file a timely notice of appeal or to obtain an extension or reopening of the appeal period, the court denied leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the appeal.