Supreme Court broadens scope of federal post-conviction review
Photo credit: Stephanie Sundier
Supreme Court broadens scope of federal post-conviction review

The US Supreme Court held Monday in Banister v. Davis that Rule 59(e) of federal civil procedure does not change a habeas court’s judgment, and it thus is not considered a “second or successive habeas petition,” expanding the scope of federal post-conviction review.

The petitioner in this case is Gregory Banister, who was convicted for aggravated assault in Texas and sentenced to 30 years in prison. When he ran out of appeals in state court, he filed a Rule 59(e) petition, which is a “motion to alter or amend a judgment.” He then filed a notice of appeal when the 59(e) motion was denied by the District Court. His appeal went to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which held that his 59(e) motion was a “successive habeas petition,” so they dismissed the appeal as untimely. This is based on the stringent guidelines limiting second or successive habeas applications under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

The Supreme Court, however, held that the phrase “second or successive application” does not refer to any and all habeas filings made following an initial application. They determined that precedent called for permitting a Rule 59(e) motion in habeas proceedings, and so they reversed and remanded the case.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.