Cases & Deals

NACDL's amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court defends longstanding interpretation of trigger for deferential review under federal habeas-corpus law

Client(s) National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

On behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers ("NACDL"), Jones Day filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court in a case concerning the interpretation of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's ("AEDPA") "adjudication on the merits" requirement. AEDPA is the federal statute governing habeas-corpus review of state-court convictions. The question was whether a state court adjudicated a claim on the merits when, in an opinion, it addressed some of the criminal defendant’s claims but omitted mention of a properly raised claim under the Constitution or federal law. Such adjudication is required for federal habeas review of a claim to be limited by AEDPA's deferential standard of review.

In the brief filed in support of the respondent Williams, Jones Day urged the Court to reject the position of the petitioner, the State of California, that federal courts should apply an irrebuttable presumption that all claims fairly presented to a state court were adjudicated on the merits. The brief asserted instead that the courts should allow a prisoner to argue that a state court had overlooked his federal claim, as nearly all courts of appeals allow. The Court held that a presumption applied but was rebuttable, including on the ground that the state court overlooked the claim, and pointed to the consensus approach of the courts of appeals as providing guidance.

Johnson v. Williams, No. 11-465 (U.S.)