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May 28, 2013

Two notable 5-4 AEDPA rulings, both in favor of habeas defendants, from SCOTUS

Though surely disappointing to all civil lawyers, today the Supreme Court issued only two criminal justice opinions.  Here is an abridged account from the SCOTUSblog coverage of today's rulings:

[1] Trevino v. Thaler.  Opinion by Breyer, but in his absence it is being announced by Kennedy.  Fifth Circuit is vacated and remanded.  Vote appears to be 5-4.

Holding: When as here a state's procedural framework by reason of its design and operation makes it highly unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise an ineffective assistance claim on direct appeal, the exception recognized in Martinez v. Ryan applies. (It is an exception to the procedural bar rule.)  The Chief dissents, joined by Alito; Scalia wrote a dissent, joined by Thomas....

Comment From Peter Goldberger: Trevino is an important win for capital post-conviction petitioners in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi....

[2] Justice Ginsburg has second opinion, in McQuiggin v. Perkins.  Sixth Circuit is vacated and remanded. The opinion is 5-4.  So much for unanimity....

Holding: Actual innocence if proved serves as a gateway through which a petitioner may pass whether the impediment is a procedural bar or expiration of the AEDPA statute of limitations, as in this case.... Scalia dissents, joined by the Chief and Thomas and in part by Justice Alito.

In other words, a big day for habeas defendants thanks to the four Democratic-appointed Justices plus criminal-justice swinger Justice Kennedy.  And thanks to these rulings, I think it is time to come up with a new name for what AEDPA really now means — perhaps something like Another Equitable Death Penalty Allowance (though I bet readers can do better).

May 28, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Permalink


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¿ Anal Expediting Death Protocols Announced ?

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | May 28, 2013 10:59:04 AM

hmm sounds like in the second case they are now saying the same thing i have for a long while.

Innocence trumps law and retared govt policy EVERY TIME!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 28, 2013 12:13:04 PM

I agree, Rod. Finally, a hint of sanity creeps its way back into Supreme Court criminal justice jurisprudence.

We incarcerate more people as a percentage of our population than any country in human history, and the sad fact of the matter is that at least a third of the people in prison or jail across the U.S. are factually innocent.

It could be you next: set-up or falsely accused and falsely imprisoned... and if it is you, you will be thanking your stars for decisions like McQuiggin v. Perkins.

Posted by: James | May 28, 2013 1:52:43 PM

James stated: "...and the sad fact of the matter is that at least a third of the people in prison or jail across the U.S. are factually innocent."


The quoted statement is either a huge blockbuster of a story or the dumbest thing ever posted on this blog.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | May 28, 2013 2:29:13 PM

PS The right-wing incarceration nation supporting "Innocence Project" cites a study that put the number between 3-5%.

Do you drink too much or write for The Onion?

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | May 28, 2013 2:36:23 PM

The dissent has the better argument in the actual innocence case, and the majority opinion gives with one hand while taking away with the other.

Congress enacted specific time limits on filing a habeas petition. The majority jumped through several hoops to find that Congress did not mean for those time limits to strictly apply to actual innocence claims. They then held that while passage of time did not bar actual innocence claims, trial courts could use the passage of time to assess whether the claims merited a hearing. Based on this latter holding, the case should have been dismissed as improvidently granted.

So a lot of make work for district courts and a lot of encouragement to inmates to file more petitions just in case, but no chance of any significant number of additional cases receiving relief.

Posted by: tmm | May 28, 2013 2:41:24 PM

TarlsQtr1 --

"The quoted statement is either a huge blockbuster of a story or the dumbest thing ever posted on this blog."

I think you're underestimating the blog.

Still, you'll be waiting a long time for even the liberal wahoos to sign on to James's breezy statement that, "at least a third of the people in prison or jail across the U.S. are factually innocent."

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 28, 2013 2:46:34 PM

Bill stated: "I think you're underestimating the blog."

Touche. I did not think that one through. I believe it at least hits the Top 100 though. :-)

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | May 28, 2013 3:23:14 PM

McQuiggin v. Perkins is a joke. Everyone knows this, and it's beyond embarrassing for the Court to step in here. But Kennedy and the Gang of Four do what they do, and basically, we the people either have to listen or they can start to resist the encroachments of the Court.

But putting aside the naked flouting of a federal statute, particularly one passed in the face of obvious abuses by federal courts, this case is troublesome for its repulsive premise that federal courts know best. The federal courts are littered with "jurists" like Stephen Reinhardt (who was caught playing fast and loose with the record), Rosemary Barkett, Richard Paez, Gregory Frost, Chatigny, Anna Diggs Taylor and various and sundry hacks and results-oriented "judges."

As for Trevino, the damage could be limited if the Supreme Court wouldn't allow settled habeas judgments to be ripped open--but we know how irresponsible the Court has been with stays of execution--even stooping to grant a stay for an out-of-time rehearing request without, of course, so much as an explanation.

Posted by: federalist | May 28, 2013 9:28:31 PM

federalist --

Here's a tough one for you: Which will happen first: A liberal will take James to task for his breathtaking lie that at least a third of inmates are factually innocent, or a liberal will take you to task for saying that several judges are hacks?

Think hard now!

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 28, 2013 10:12:37 PM

Well, you know Bill, these guys aren't interested in taking me on. They rag on me for ripping on Frost, and all I do is quote him. They rag on me for calling Martha Coakley a thug, and I mention Gerald Amirault. And on an on. Libs yap and yap about all sorts of things, but at the end of the day, they play for a team. Remember, this is the crowd that supports Eric "Marc Rich" Holder--even though Holder helped spring a 1%er.

Posted by: federalist | May 28, 2013 11:00:56 PM

So, in regard to the Trevino ruling, does this apply only to cases where no IAC claim at all was made, or also to cases where the claim was made but in an inept fashion? What do you think the practical effect of this decision will be?

Posted by: alpino | May 29, 2013 7:20:43 AM

LOL i won't go 1/3 are innocent. But a federal study i saw back in the early 1990's put the number at about 10% out of 2 million plus prisoners....that's a hell of a lot of innocent people taking up much needed space.

hell even half or a 4th of that is too fucking much.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 29, 2013 10:22:41 PM

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