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March 21, 2007

Big retroactivity SCOTUS development?!?

Minutes after I finish this playful SCOTUS post, I discover this thoughtful post at SCOTUSblog entitled "Court to study scope of Teague retroactivity."  The report by Lyle Denniston details a notable retroactivity briefing request from the Court.  Here are the basics from Lyle:

The Supreme Court indicated on Tuesday that at least some Justices are interested in claims by state prisoners that they should be able to get more retroactive benefit out of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that lay down new rules of criminal procedure. The Court's electronic docket shows an order asking the state of Minnesota to discuss that question.

Here is how the Court phrased its inquiry in the pending case of Danforth v. Minnesota (06-8273): "Are state supreme courts required to use the standard announced in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), to determine whether United States Supreme Court decisions apply retroactively to state-court criminal cases, or may a state court apply state-law or state-constitution-based retroactivity tests that afford application of Supreme Court decisions to a broader class of criminal defendants than the class defined by Teague?" (emphasis added).

In other words, the Court seems prepared to explore (only two decades after Teague) response whether state courts are bound to apply Teague in state-court collateral attacks.   

As Lyle details, the Danforth case is focused on a Crawford issue.  But, this obviously could become a significant issue in efforts to apply Blakely (or even Apprendi) retroactivity.  Indeed, a thoughtful reader e-mail this reaction to this development: "If they take up a Blakely retroactivity case too, then that will pretty much nail down, one way or the other, the state of Blakely retroactivity."

March 21, 2007 at 12:21 PM | Permalink


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I am not an attorney - this post just reminded me of an article Prof. Berman posted a link to in 2006 - "Retroactivity in the Rear View Mirror". The article discusses the federal vs. state retroactivity question:
"As recently as 2004[in Beard v. Banks], the Court acknowledged that the justification for the Teague ban hinged on the fact that Teague involved state habeas petitioners. It explained that “the Teague principle protects not only the reasonable judgments of state courts but also the States’ interest in finality quite apart from their courts.” According to the Court, a chief purpose of the Teague retroactivity principle is to impose a “limitation on the power of federal courts to grant ‘habeas corpus relief to . . . state prisoner[s].’”
There seems to be some question (at least in this article) whether Teague should apply to federal inmates.
I'll leave the arguing to those with more practice...

Posted by: TE | Mar 21, 2007 9:00:46 PM

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