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Supreme Court considers federal habeas corpus cases

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Monday in Wall v. Kholi [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report]. The court is considering whether a state court sentence-reduction motion consisting of a plea for leniency constitutes an "application for State post-conviction or other collateral review" under 28 USC § 2244(d)(2) [text], resulting in an extension of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) [text, PDF] one-year limitations period for a state prisoner to file a federal habeas corpus petition. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the district court's judgment that a petition for leniency is different from an appeal to correct legal errors and therefore does not result in a tolling of the statute of limitations under AEDPA. The First Circuit's decision was in line with a Tenth Circuit ruling on the same issue, but the Third, Fourth and Eleventh Circuits had previously ruled that a petition for leniency does not toll the statute of limitations under AEDPA.

Also Monday, the court heard arguments in Walker v. Martin [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on whether a state law barring a prisoner from collaterally attacking his conviction is adequate to support a procedural bar to filing a habeas corpus petition. A California state law prevents prisoners from collaterally attacking their judgment when the prisoner "substantially delayed" filing his habeas petition. The court will decide whether the law is inadequate to bar the collateral attack because it is vague and because state courts failed to apply the state law consistently. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found [opinion, PDF] that the state's law was not well-established or "consistently applied" and therefore did not constitute a procedural bar to collaterally attacking the conviction.

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