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April 25, 2006

Notable split habeas ruling from SCOTUS

As reported here by SCOTUSblog, this morning the Supreme Court, dividing 5-4 in Day v. McDonough (04-1324), ruled "that federal trial judges have discretion to dismiss a prisoner's habeas petition as too late, even though a state had conceded erroneously that the petition had been filed on time. The Court, in an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the Court would not choose an inflexible rule that dismissal would be required whenever the one-year filing deadline had expired." 

I may not get a chance to weigh in on the merits of this ruling for a while, but here I must note that the supposed new harmony/consensus exhibited by the Roberts Court in other areas has not generally extended to cases involving criminal justice issues.  I think most (all?) of the 5-4 votes have come in criminal justice cases this Term, and all three cases ordered to be re-argued involve criminal justice or related issues.

UPDATE: The AP has this report on the day ruling, which notes the the decision broke the Justices "into unusual alliances."  Howard Bashman has all the details here:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court in Day v. McDonough, No. 04-1324. This is the first 5-4 decision of the newly constituted Court, and the line-up of the Justices is rather interesting. Joining in Justice Ginsburg's majority opinion were the Chief Justice, and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, and Alito. Justice John Paul Stevens issued a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined. And Justice Antonin Scalia issued a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Clarence Thomas and Breyer joined.

April 25, 2006 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

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» (Ir)relevant Distinctions from De Novo
They seem to be the order of the day. First, the leak by Central Intelligence Agency analyst Mary McCarthy that led to her being fired. If it doesn't run afoul of whistleblower protection statutes, McCarthy's dismissal seems pretty straightforward: she... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 27, 2006 9:32:14 AM

» (Ir)relevant Distinctions from De Novo
They seem to be the order of the day. First, the leak by Central Intelligence Agency analyst Mary McCarthy that led to her being fired. If it doesn't run afoul of whistleblower protection statutes, McCarthy's dismissal seems pretty straightforward: she... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 30, 2006 1:16:55 PM

Comments

It's even more unusual than Howard's post notes. The case is actually 6-3 on the question presented.

It is not unusual for appellate judges to write separate opinions concurring in the result. This is where they agree with the majority or plurality on the "bottom line" of affirm or reverse but disagree with the reasoning. In this case, though, Justice Stevens dissented in the result. He agreed with the majority's resolution of the question presented and decided, but he would have held the case until the Court decides (next term) a question that "lurk[s] in the record" and is pending in another case but was not presented in the certiorari petition. In nearly 20 years of doing Supreme Court work, I do not recall ever seeing an opinion "dissenting from the judgment."

So, on the question that matters for precedential purposes, we have 3/4 of the "liberal" wing of the Court voting for the prosecution, while the two "arch-conservatives" vote for the defendant. Further, we have one more nail in the coffin of the "Scalito" nonsense that Justice Alito would be a clone of Justice Scalia. (Not that any more were needed; that coffin was pretty well sealed before.)

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 25, 2006 1:35:37 PM

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