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Rethinking the Federal Role in State Criminal Justice


Joseph L. Hoffmann


Indiana University-Bloomington, Maurer School of Law

Nancy J. King


Vanderbilt University - Law School

October 2, 2008

New York University Law Review, Vol. 84, 2009
Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 08-43

Abstract:     
This Essay argues that federal habeas review of state criminal cases squanders resources the federal government should be using to help states reform their systems of defense representation. A 2007 empirical study reveals that federal habeas review is inaccessible to most state prisoners convicted of non-capital crimes, and offers no realistic hope of relief for those who reach federal court. As a means of correcting or deterring constitutional error in non-capital cases, habeas is failing and cannot be fixed. Drawing upon these findings as well as the Supreme Court's most recent decision applying the Suspension Clause, the authors propose that Congress eliminate federal habeas review of state criminal judgments, except for cases including certain claims of actual innocence, retroactively applicable rules, or the sentence of death. The federal government should leave the review of all other state criminal judgments to the state courts and invest, instead, in a new federal initiative to encourage improved state defense services, an approach that can deter and correct constitutional error more effectively than any amount of habeas litigation ever could.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: habeas, public defender, post-conviction, AEDPA, Suspension Clause, innocence, ineffective assistance, representation, appeals

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Date posted: October 3, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Hoffmann, Joseph L. and King, Nancy J., Rethinking the Federal Role in State Criminal Justice (October 2, 2008). New York University Law Review, Vol. 84, 2009; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 08-43. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1277304

Contact Information

Joseph L. Hoffmann
Indiana University-Bloomington, Maurer School of Law ( email )
211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
Nancy J. King (Contact Author)
Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )
131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
(615) 343-9836 (Phone)
(615) 322-6631 (Fax)
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