Rethinking the Federal Role in State Criminal Justice

51 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2008  

Joseph L. Hoffmann

Indiana University-Bloomington, Maurer School of Law

Nancy J. King

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: October 2, 2008

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.

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

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1277304

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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