Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! (UPDATED)

UPDATE -- Judges Carnes and Hill won't be sharing a turkey this holiday.  Check out Judge Hill's dissenting opinion in Rozier v. United States.  A snippet:

I reluctantly conclude that our court is determined to deny relief to every confined habeas petitioner whose sentence has been unlawfully enhanced under either the career offender guideline or the armed career criminal statute.
I must confess I am bewildered that both the United States, through its Department of Justice, and this court appear to rejoice when access to constitutional protection for the correction of admitted and highly prejudicial error is found to be blocked by unmet procedural “safeguards.” On the contrary, I should have thought that the correction of such error would be celebrated by all sworn to uphold the Constitution. As is inscribed in the office rotunda of the Attorney General of the United States, “The United States wins its point whenever justice is done its citizens in the courts.” Some in the Department of Justice seem to believe that the inscription reads, “Justice is done when the United States wins.”
  Clearly justice is not the intended beneficiary of these procedural safeguards. On the contrary, the safeguards are designed to protect finality. If these new rules require that finality trump justice, then perhaps, as one member of this panel has opined elsewhere, they are unconstitutional. In any event, I cannot join in this elevation of form over substance; of finality over fairness. Due process is the defining virtue of our system of criminal justice. But we should ask ourselves why. Is it because it achieves finality? Or is it because we believe that, more often than not, we will reach a correct result where certain process is due the criminal defendant. The goal is a correct result – not simply the provision of process. To be sure, we do not guarantee a correct result. But where all know the result is error, to adhere to the process as though it were the end goal is unfair in the purest sense of the word.
This is especially true where the petitioner is in federal custody, not state custody. We safeguard finality for state court convictions out of respect for the dual principles of comity and federalism. Neither of these considerations is due the erroneously sentenced federal prisoner. It seems to me that the majority has striven mightily to avoid granting the writ to someone currently deprived of liberty in violation of law. I am weary of our court’s relentless effort to put more and more procedural angels on the head of the habeas pin. At some point, we must concede, as the Seventh Circuit did recently, that common sense and basic fairness require that we correct these unlawfully enhanced sentences. See Narvaez v. United States, 674 F.3d 621 (7th Cir. 2011).


Anonymous said...

Now that's what's up. That's what I've been saying all these years.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Note that Barkett is in the majority, thus seriously, in my view, diminishing Hill's dissent. She's no shrinking violet when it comes to how f'd AEDPA is perceived by some to be. (Remember her dissent in the Troy Davis case, anyone?) He really does appear to miss Carnes's point. Cool dissent nonetheless.

Rumpole said...

My new hero!!!