Monday, June 20, 2011

Back to work...

I see that the good professor did a good job last week at the conn.

Some good news to report -- Judge Bob Scola will have his hearing this Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226, at 2:30 p.m. This is good news and it's good to see that his nomination is moving relatively quickly.

Looks like I have some light reading to do now that I'm back -- Judge Carnes issues two lengthy and significant opinions last week -- United States v. Hill and Johnson v. Dept of Corrections(163 pages and 69 pages). Hill is a mortgage fraud case with lots of twists and turns. Here's a quick summary from Business Week:

But the three-judge panel soundly rejected his arguments in a scathing 163-page opinion that traced the plot from its inception to its downfall. The decision painstakingly recounted and then dismissed almost every objection filed by Hill and the others during the 31-day trial, which involved more than 100 witnesses and thousands of pages of documents.

"Without Hill there would have been no conspiracy, no massive amount of mortgage fraud resulting from it, and no ruined lives in the wake of it," read the opinion. "He bore the greatest responsibility for the massive crime and deserved the longest sentence."

Interestingly, Carnes ruled for a state death row habeas petitioner in Johnson based on ineffective assistance of counsel back from 1980. From the intro:

Earlier this year the Supreme Court reminded lower federal courts that when the state courts have denied an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on the merits, the standard a petitioner must meet to obtain federal habeas relief was intended to be, and is, a difficult one. Harrington v. Richter, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011). The standard is not whether an error was committed, but whether the state court decision is contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law that has been clearly established by decisions of the Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). As the Supreme Court explained, error alone is not enough, because “[f]or purposes of § 2254(d)(1), an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.” Harrington, ___ U.S. at ___, 131 S.Ct. at 785 (quotation marks omitted). And “even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court’s contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id., 131 S.Ct. at 786.

When faced with an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that was denied on the merits by the state courts, a federal habeas court “must determine what arguments or theories supported or, [if none were stated], could have supported, the state court’s decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme] Court.” Id., 131 S.Ct. at 786. So long as fairminded jurists could disagree about whether the state court’s denial of the claim was inconsistent with an earlier Supreme Court decision, federal habeas relief must be denied. Id., 131 S.Ct. at 786. Stated the other way, only if “there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court’s decision conflicts with [the Supreme] Court’s precedents” may relief be granted. Id., 131 S.Ct. at 786.

Even without the deference due under § 2254, the Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (1984), standard for judging the performance of counsel “is a most deferential one.” Harrington, ___ U.S. at ___, 131 S.Ct. at 788. When combined with the extra layer of deference that § 2254 provides, the result is double deference and the question becomes whether “there is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland’s deferential standard.” Id., 131 S.Ct. at 788. Double deference is doubly difficult for a petitioner to overcome, and it will be a rare case in which an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that was denied on the merits in state court is found to merit relief in a federal habeas proceeding. This is one of those rare cases.


Anonymous said...

impossible, i dare say

Anonymous said...

scola and jordan will be the best we have.