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SCOTUS holds that a federal habeas court may not consider evidence beyond the state court record on the basis that a prisoner’s post-conviction counsel negligently failed to develop the state court record

Federal

,

United States

In Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez, No. 20-1009 (2022), the state of Arizona petitioned for writ of certiorari in two criminal cases. In both cases, the Ninth Circuit held that while the petitioners’ claims for ineffective assistance of trial counsel, brought as part of their petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 2254, were procedurally defaulted, post-conviction counsel’s failure to raise and develop the ineffective assistance at trial claim was cause to forgive the procedural default. In both cases, an additional evidentiary hearing was held to supplement the undeveloped state court record.

The State argued that 28 U. S. C. § 2254(e)(2) does not permit a federal court to order evidentiary development simply because post-conviction counsel is alleged to have negligently failed to develop the state court record.

Martinez established that attorney error can establish cause to excuse a procedural default in an ineffective assistance claim, but only if the State requires prisoners to raise such claims for the first time during collateral proceedings

Prisoners are required to raise all of their federal claims in state court before seeking federal habeas relief. Under the doctrine of procedural default, federal courts generally decline to hear any federal claim that was not presented to the state courts consistent with the State’s own procedural rules. In general, federal courts may only excuse a procedural default if a prisoner can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the violation of federal law.

In general, attorney error cannot establish cause to excuse a procedural default unless it violates the Constitution. In Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012) (“Martinez”), the United States Supreme Court recognized a narrow exception to this general rule. Martinez established that ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel may constitute “cause” to forgive procedural default of an ineffective assistance claim, but only if the State requires prisoners to raise such claims for the first time during state collateral proceedings. Otherwise, attorney error where there is no right to counsel remains insufficient to show cause.

Congress erected a constitutionally valid barrier to habeas relief in Section 2254(e)(2)

28 U. S. C. § 2254(e)(2) provides that, if a prisoner has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, a federal court may hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim in only two scenarios. Either the claim must rely on a new and previously unavailable rule of constitutional law made retroactively applicable by the United States Supreme Court, or on a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence. The Court explained that it had no authority to amend 28 U. S. C. § 2254(e)(2).

Under Section 2254(e)(2), a federal habeas court may not conduct an evidentiary hearing or otherwise consider evidence beyond the state court record based on ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel

The Court explained that if 28 U. S. C. § 2254(e)(2) applies, and the prisoner cannot satisfy its stringent requirements, a federal court may not hold an evidentiary hearing, or otherwise consider new evidence, to assess cause and prejudice under Martinez. Thus, the Court held that under 28 U. S. C. § 2254(e)(2), a federal habeas court may not conduct an evidentiary hearing or otherwise consider evidence beyond the state court record based on ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel.

Disposition

The Court reversed the judgments of the Court of Appeals.

June 15, 2022
Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez, No. 20-1009 (2022)
Author: Grace Baehren