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Habeas Corpus - The Emergence Of Modern Federal Habeas Corpus

court constitutional brown petitions

By the mid-twentieth century, the Court cemented federal habeas's role as a vehicle for challenging the lawfulness of state criminal convictions (Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443 (1953)). Most importantly, the Court indicated that state court legal determinations were not binding on federal habeas courts, and that such courts should address federal constitutional claims de novo.

At the time Brown was decided, federal habeas review remained quite limited, because few federal constitutional protections had been extended to state prisoners. But during the 1960s, the Court "constitutionalized" criminal procedure and read the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to encompass virtually all of the protections of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. In addition, the Court adopted relatively lenient rules concerning state procedural defaults. The Court characterized federal habeas review as an independent civil action rather than as a formal appeal of a state court judgment and refused to apply the independent and adequate state ground doctrine to bar procedurally defaulted claims on federal habeas. Instead, the Court held that if a state inmate failed to properly raise a federal constitutional claim in state court, the issue would nonetheless be cognizable on federal habeas unless the inmate had deliberately bypassed state procedural rules (Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391 (1963)). As a result, federal habeas increasingly became a robust forum for vindicating the federal constitutional claims of state prisoners. Not surprisingly in light of these developments, the sheer volume of federal habeas petitions grew dramatically in the four decades following Brown. Although Justice Jackson had complained of a "haystack" of federal habeas petitions in Brown, the 541 petitions filed in 1951 had become 12,000 by 1990.

Habeas Corpus - Relationship Of Federal Habeas To State Postconviction [next] [back] Habeas Corpus - The Scope Of Federal Habeas Corpus

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