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March 7, 2011

SCOTUS issues opinions on AEDPA timelines and DNA requests

This morning the Supreme Court issued opinion on two criminal justice procedure issues of note.  Here are the details via the fine folks at SCOTUSblog:

Wall v. Kholi (09-868) -- In a unanimous opinion by Justice Alito, The Court affirmed the decision of the First Circuit.  The case concerns the time limits for filing a federal petition for habeas corpus under AEDPA, which generally allows inmates one year to file a petition, but tolls the time limit while the inmate’s case is on “collateral review” in the state courts.  The Court held that the phrase “collateral review” in AEDPA means judicial review of a judgment in a proceeding that is not part of direct review.  Accordingly, state proceedings on an inmate’s motion to reduce his sentence did toll the time to file his federal habeas petition.

Justice Scalia concurred in part.

Skinner v. Switzer (09-9000) -- In a 6-3 opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Court reversed the decision of the Fifth Circuit.   Skinner filed a civil rights suit under Section 1983, seeking access to DNA evidence to challenge his state conviction.  The Court held that federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over such claims, which are properly cognizable under Section 1983.

Justice Thomas filed a dissent joined by Justice Kennedy and Justice Alito. 

March 7, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Permalink


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Scalia's concurrence disputed a footnote. How important was the footnote?

Posted by: Joe | Mar 7, 2011 11:40:56 AM

The summary of Wall v. Kholi suggests factual innocence if off the table after a year because of the toll requirement. However, I must have misread that because Skinner v. Switzer apparently leaves that door open. Is that because of the difference between the AEDPA and Section 1983?

Posted by: George | Mar 7, 2011 1:38:35 PM

how retarded. actual possible innocent should ALWAYS take priority over ANYTHING ESPECIALLY stupid govt regulations

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 8, 2011 1:18:21 AM

I'm still trying to figure out how Skinner differs from the DNA access case out of Alaska last term where the defendant lost. Is it simply a matter of the legal avenue that was pursued? If so that is pretty dumb. "Oops, sorry, you guessed wrong so now all your claims are forfeited", better luck next time."

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 8, 2011 9:24:30 AM

This decision didn't give Skinner a constitutional right to DNA testing, just the right to file a civil suit. The Alaska case sought to establish a civil right to post-conviction DNA testing.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Mar 8, 2011 8:10:19 PM

Hrmm, doesn't everyone have the right to file a civil suit (ignoring those few folks whom the courts have found to be serial frivolous filers, and even there I believe the courts would accept a suit, just requiring that full fees be paid). Unless you mean a bit more than what you wrote it doesn't seem like Skinner won very much at all.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 8, 2011 10:55:39 PM

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