Saturday, December 02, 2006

Circuit Trends in Habeas Corpus, AEDPA

When did you last admit to having made a mistake about something? Anything. That is why judicial review, and in particular, Habeas Corpus review, remains so extraordinary. It provides a searching and thorough reexamination in a matter of controversy and, where warranted, it requires the finding: judge, you made a mistake. To a judge this must be an excruciating moment, akin to punishment. Habeas writs are granted very infrequently, so that when they are granted that is news. Here are a few items of note recently published elsewhere that I happen to be collecting, and now make available to you, dear readers:

Killing Habeas: Maryland's Unique contribution to the history of Habeas here

President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in Maryland on April 27, 1861, two weeks after the Confederate attack on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter. “Lincoln could look out his window at the White House and see Robert E. Lee’s plantation in Virginia,” Akhil Reed Amar, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of “America’s Constitution,” said. “He was also facing a rebellion of so-called Peace Democrats in Maryland, meaning there was a real chance that Washington would be surrounded and a real threat that the White House would be captured.” On Lincoln’s order, federal troops arrested Baltimore’s mayor and chief of police, as well as several members of the Maryland legislature, who were jailed so that they couldn’t vote to secede from the Union.

Relief Granted:

Stewart v. Wolfenbarger, No. 04-2419 (6th Cir. 11/9/2006) (6th Cir., 2006) See previous post here.

A Question of Innocence:

Rittenberry v. Morgan, No. 05-5606 (6th Cir. 11/9/2006) (6th Cir., 2006)

When does procedural default bar federal review? When is a state-court decision based on "independent and adequate state grounds"? Triggering these questions was Confrontation Clause ruling reviewed in Wright v. Quarterman, No. 05-70037 (5th. Cir. 11/17/2006) (5th. Cir., 2006). This case seems to say that you must make a contemporaneous Sixth Amendment objection together with a Hearsay objection under Texas Rules of Evidence in order to preserve Confrontation Clause grounds for federal habeas review. But I was under the impression that the Texas Rules of Evidence are grounded in the federal rules...or does that not matter? But what if the fundamental reasoning for having hearsay objections (and exceptions) was grounded in the Confrontation Clause itself? Can that not be sufficient?

Grant of Relief Affirmed in James v. Brigano, No. 05-4003 (6th Cir. 11/30/2006) (6th Cir., 2006) resolving a question of procedural default

(Ohio Court of Appeals' lengthy opinion denying James's motion to reopen does not frame its rejection of James's underlying claims as a failure to find prejudice or on procedural grounds, but instead rejects those claims on their merits. Therefore, because the Ohio Court of Appeals did not actually rely on the procedural bar in rejecting either of James's claims, those claims are not procedurally defaulted for habeas purposes)

James's other claim for habeas relief is that his waiver of appointed counsel before the state trial court was not made knowingly and intelligently. As the record makes clear, at no time did the state trial court judge ensure that James's waiver of appointed counsel was knowing and voluntary. At no time did the state trial judge explain to James the risks and dangers in proceeding pro se. And at no time did the state trial judge make an explicit finding that James's waiver was knowing and intelligent. Instead, the state trial judge appeared to accept, and the Ohio Court of Appeals explicitly accepted, the idea that James was attempting to delay trial and avoid the administration of justice when he tried to fire Stewart with his outbursts in front of prospective jurors and to the court after voir dire.

Neither the state trial judge nor the appeals court addressed the question of waiver, even though "courts [should] indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver of fundamental constitutional rights."Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464 (1938)".

As the district court pointed out, under even the AEDPA standard, the finding that James knowingly and intelligently waived appointed counsel was a failure to apply clearly established Supreme Court precedent because of an unreasonable finding of fact.

Remanded, Writ Vacated on Non-retroactivity: Albrecht v. Horn, No. 04-9005 (3rd Cir. 11/21/2006) (3rd Cir., 2006)

See Previous Post here: St. Aubin v. Quarterman, No. 05-40277 (5th. Cir. 11/21/2006) (5th. Cir., 2006)

Affirmed Conditional Relief: Higgins v. Renico, No. 05-1564 (6th Cir. 11/20/2006) (6th Cir., 2006)

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