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June 6, 2011

SCOTUS grants cert in significant habeas case and resolves one ACCA issue

The Supreme Court was back in action this morning, and the early reports from the SCOTUSblog folks indicate a significant habeas cert grant and the handing down of one Armed Career Criminal Act sentencing decision.  Here are the basics:

There are two [cert.] grants [including] Martinez v. Ryan....

The Martinez cert grant is a big deal in habeas law. It involves the circumstances in which there is a constitutional right to effective counsel in post-conviction proceedings.  And the Martinez v. Ryan case page [is at this link]....

The second opinion [handed down today] is McNeill v. United States.  This is an opinion by Justice Thomas.  The Court is unanimous.  The Fourth Circuit's decision is affirmed.  Here is the McNeill opinion.

The Court holds that a federal sentencing court must determine whether an offense under state law is a serious drug offense by consulting the maximum term of imprisonment applicable to a defendant's prior state drug offense at the time of the conviction.  So changes to the drug offense are not relevant.  It's the time of conviction.

UPDATE:  This AP report on McNeill provides all you need to know about the decision via its headline: "Court: Career criminal won't get less prison time."  Also, Ellen Podgor notes here that a case in which cert was denied today involved action hero Wesley Snipes.

June 6, 2011 at 10:22 AM | Permalink


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Doesn't Teague preclude relief in Martinez v. Ryan?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 6, 2011 10:56:35 AM

Teague says federal courts can't announce new rules of "criminal procedure" in habeas. It doesn't say they can't announce new rules of "habeas procedure."

Posted by: arfarf | Jun 6, 2011 11:25:07 AM

If the guy has a substantive right to effective rep at state post-conviction with respect to effective rep at trial, then it seems to me that Teague is pretty relevant--to say nothing of 28 USC 2254(i).

Posted by: federalist | Jun 6, 2011 11:35:28 AM

Well, the Teague and 2254(i) issues are before the Court if it wants to reach them. I can't get a link to the BIO but looks like Arizona made a Teague argument in its BIO, and Martinez's reply said the Supreme Court shouldn't consider it because Arizona didn't raise Teague in the court of appeals. Arizona's BIO also apparently made a 2254(i) argument. Martinez's reply said that in his case the ineffectiveness of state post-conviction counsel isn't a ground for relief, it's just a reason why his actual ground for relief (ineffectiveness of trial counsel) shouldn't be procedurally defaulted.

Posted by: arfarf | Jun 6, 2011 12:42:19 PM

Arizona can certainly hold onto its judgment with alternatives.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 6, 2011 2:50:04 PM

The 2254(i) argument is irrelevant if the Sixth Amendment requires a meaningful opportunity to be able to assert your constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel through first-tier review of that right, as the Supreme Court held a defendant is entitled to in Halbert v Michigan. AEDPA is only a statute.

As for Teague - a ruling in favour of Martinez would appear to fall within the "watershed rules of criminal procedure exception", especially given its clear parallel with Gideon v Wainwright, often held up as an example of such a rule.

Posted by: jsmith | Jun 6, 2011 4:00:30 PM

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