Monday, February 01, 2016

Jordan v. Pryor

It's a pretty interesting debate, both in terms of style and substance, in this habeas case between Judges Jordan and Pryor.  Jordan ends up in the majority with a the vote of a visiting judge.  This angers Judge Pryor even though it usually happens in the reverse.  He starts his dissent this way:
Ace Patterson—a child rapist, kidnapper, and burglar—won the habeas lottery today. The majority gives him a second chance to collaterally attack his convictions in federal court, seventeen years after his trial and nine years after he filed his first federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Most state prisoners are not so lucky, as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act prohibits the filing of a “second or successive” petition for a writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b). But Patterson is luckier still. In a sleight of hand, the majority rules that a 2009 order sparing him from chemical castration—an unopposed order that benefited Patterson—somehow hit the reset button on his ability to obtain federal habeas relief, even though the 2009 order is not “the judgment authorizing [Patterson’s] confinement” and is irrelevant for purposes of the bar on second or successive petitions. *** The clear text of the statute makes “the judgment of a State court” that holds the prisoner “in custody” the judgment that matters for our collateral review. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). And for good reason. Patterson, after all, does not object to anything in the 2009 order that spared him from chemical castration or allege that the removal of chemical castration somehow violated his federal constitutional rights. He instead seeks to collaterally attack the judgment of convictions  entered against him in 1998—a judgment he has already collaterally attacked once in federal court and four times in state court. And the majority lets him do it. Because that ruling is wrong in every way, I dissent.
Even though it's easy to disagree with his decision, you gotta give it to Judge Pryor -- he is a gifted writer.  Here's some more, this time from the conclusion:
When it comes to federal habeas petitions, the more is not the merrier. Relaxing the bar on second or successive petitions will “prejudice the occasional meritorious application” for a writ of habeas corpus by “bur[ying] [it] in a flood of worthless ones.” McCleskey, 499 U.S. at 492, 111 S. Ct. at 1469 (quoting Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 537, 73 S. Ct. 397, 425 (1953) (Jackson, J., concurring in the result)). Despite the best efforts of Congress to prevent that “flood,” the majority is praying for rain. This case is not hard. And nobody should be fooled by the majority’s atextual decision. After seventeen years of repeated and often frivolous attempts to overturn his convictions, Patterson is being given another go-round based on an order issued in 2009 that both the State of Florida and the guardian ad litem thought was meaningless. That order does not authorize his confinement, and he does not allege that it violates his constitutional rights. Nor should he: the 2009 order gave him all of the relief that he requested. Today’s decision is gimmickry that will require the State of Florida to defend a child rapist’s convictions for the umpteenth time and will threaten a twenty-six-year-old woman to relive the horror of his monstrous crimes.
I dissent.
Judge Jordan goes for the even-tempered approach, expressing his disappointment in the anger from Judge Pryor's opinion, calling him out by name over and over again:
We respect the passionate dissenting views of our colleague, Judge William Pryor. Yet we suspect that Judge Pryor’s real disagreement is with Magwood and our prior decision in Insignares.
Finally, to the extent that Judge Pryor is suggesting that we are in some way trying to undermine AEDPA, such an accusation is as disappointing as it is wrong. As the Seventh Circuit recently noted, see Kramer v. United States, 797 F.3d 493, 502 (7th Cir. 2015), reasonable jurists can disagree about what constitutes a new judgment under Magwood. We have tried to faithfully apply AEDPA and Magwood in light of binding circuit precedent, and that binding circuit precedent is Insignares. We believe we have  accomplished that task, Judge Pryor’s protests notwithstanding.

And the visiting judge, District Judge Haikala, calls out Judge Pryor on his appeal to emotions.  Her concurrence begins like this:
Judge Pryor and Judge Jordan have prepared thorough opinions in this case. I have studied both opinions. I agree with Judge Pryor that this case is not hard. I agree with Judge Jordan’s analysis of the issue presented to the Court. Like Judge Jordan, I conclude that the rationale of Insignares v. Sec’y, Fla. Dep’t of Corr., 755 F.3d 1273 (11th Cir. 2014), requires reversal. I write separately to address a few points in Judge Pryor’s opinion. In his opinion, Judge Pryor describes Mr. Patterson’s reprehensible criminal behavior. Minority Op. at 2-3. There is no doubt that the conduct that gave rise to Mr. Patterson’s conviction and sentence is heinous, but that conduct has no bearing
upon the legal standard that governs the issue before the Court. As the United States Supreme Court wrote in Chessman v. Teets: “On many occasions this Court has found it necessary to say that the requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment must be respected, no matter how heinous the crime in question and no matter how guilty an accused may ultimately be found to be after guilt has been established in accordance with the procedure demanded by the Constitution.” 354 U.S. 156, 165 (1957). 


Anonymous said...

Pryor is a petulant child. His dissent is not brilliant writing, it is an embarrassment to the Court.

Anonymous said...

David, Judge Haikala is a she, not a he.

David Markus said...

Thanks. Fixed.

Anonymous said...

pryor dissent was not childish at all; well written and makes sense (in part) .. the outcome seems wrong. But ultimately Jordan is on the legally right side of this since he feels bound by the controlling Insignares decision. So in this case both judges are right in some respects. happens.

Rumpole said...

Haikala is 100% correct. Pryor's temper tantrum about the crime is irrelevant. If the habeas was for stealing from parking meters (Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke ) would that make the decision different? Pryor shows his true colors that the crime influences his decision. This is a tragedy for criminal defendants in this circuit. But we all knew that anyway.

Anonymous said...

While the facts about the petitioner being a child rapist are no doubt disturbing, they were very obviously inserted in the opinion to stir the readers' sense that there is an injustice in ruling in his favor. It would be easier to accept Pryor's indignation in this case if he was also known to dissent in cases where the majorities coldly toe the line on precedent and procedure to turn away deserving defendants or petitioners facing unjust sentences or were subjected to unfair trials. There are varying kinds of injustice. I doubt that Pryor sees or cares about those where it is the defendant who gets screwed.

Anonymous said...

2:32- do you really think Pryor used the appropriate tone in his dissent? Shouldn't judges be role models for civil discourse?

Not JAFI much longer said...

Got Civility?

Anonymous said...

sour tone versus persuasive writing is a tricky line. don't think this one crosses it, though it certainly is a biting dissent. and actually I agree the tone undermines the merit in the substantive argument of the dissent, so I would clearly edit it down. That said, again, not childish or impertinent. IMHO

Anonymous said...

Judge Pryor's idea that habeas relief should be based on the nature of the offense is appalling to say the least. His tone is that of a petulant child. Can you say DISQUALIFICATION on all criminal cases? He is an embarrassment to the bench.

Anonymous said...

Pryor nowhere says that habeas relief should be based on the nature of the offense. Yes, he characterizes the petitioner as, among other things, a child rapist. But he doesn't deny habeas relief because of that. Rumpole and others who assert otherwise are just wrong, or they haven't carefully enough read his opinion.