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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On Feb. 25, 1999, a jury found Carlos Flores Jr. guilty of the felony offenses of murder and deadly conduct. The court of appeals affirmed Flores’ conviction on Aug. 23, 2000. He did not seek a petition for discretionary review. The court of appeals issued its mandate on Nov. 17, 2000. Flores waited until Nov. 15, 2001, to file his state habeas application, which was denied on April 2, 2003. He filed his federal habeas petition on Dec. 6, 2002, while the state application was still pending. Nathaniel Quarterman, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s correctional institutions division, filed a motion to dismiss Flores’ application as time-barred pursuant to the one-year statute of limitations found in 28 U.S.C. �2244(d). Quarterman argued that the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review on Sept. 22, 2000, 30 days after the court of appeals affirmed Flores’ conviction, which constituted the date on which Flores could not seek further direct review. Because the period for Flores to timely file a habeas application therefore expired on Sept. 22, 2001, Quarterman argued that the state application Flores filed on Nov. 15, 2001, had no tolling effect. The district court invoked equitable tolling, reached the petition’s merits and denied relief. Flores then appealed the district court’s denial of relief. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court reviewed the district court’s decision to invoke equitable tolling for abuse of discretion. In Roberts v. Cockrell, 319 F.3d 690 (5th Cir. 2003), the court held that a state conviction becomes final when the time for seeking direct review expires, regardless of when the state court issues its mandate. Under Roberts, Flores’ conviction would have become final on Sept. 22, 2000, thirty days after the court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment, the court stated. Roberts, however, had not yet been decided when Flores filed his application, the court stated, and some uncertainty existed at that time as to when a conviction is made final for purposes of the �2244(d) statute of limitations. Under Texas law, a direct appeal is final when the court of appeals issues its mandate. In contrast, �2244(d)(1)(A) directs that a conviction is final at “the expiration of the time for seeking [discretionary] review.” At the time of Flores’ correct application deadline, Sept. 22, 2001, the district courts in the Northern District of Texas were not in agreement whether federal or state law controlled the issue at the time Flores filed his petition, the court stated, adding: “It is understandable that Flores’ counsel may have believed that his conviction was not final until the court of appeals issued its mandate.” Equitable tolling of the one-year limitations period, the court stated, is appropriate only in “rare and exceptional circumstances.” The court stated that “a lack of knowledge of the law” does not ordinarily justify equitable tolling. Flores’ counsel, the court stated, should have elected to err on the side of caution and abide by the earlier of the two possible deadlines (Sept. 22, 2001). The district court based its decision to invoke equitable tolling on the premise that Flores faced a dilemma between filing his state habeas application within the one-year limitations period, and exhausting his claims in state court, the court stated. But the court declared that Flores was never in such a bind, because the court of appeals issued its mandate on Nov. 17, 2000, leaving Flores nearly 10 months in which to file his habeas application. The court therefore concluded that “rare and exceptional circumstances” were lacking in this case and the district court abused its discretion in invoking equitable tolling for Flores. Given that Flores’ petition was time-barred, the court did not reach the merits of Flores’ claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. OPINION:Per curiam; Barksdale, Benavides and Owen, J.J.

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