504 U.S. 1 (1992), 90-1859, Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes

Docket Nº:No. 90-1859
Citation:504 U.S. 1, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 118 L.Ed.2d 318, 60 U.S.L.W. 4339
Party Name:Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes
Case Date:May 04, 1992
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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504 U.S. 1 (1992)

112 S.Ct. 1715, 118 L.Ed.2d 318, 60 U.S.L.W. 4339

Keeney

v.

Tamayo-Reyes

No. 90-1859

United States Supreme Court

May 4, 1992

Argued Jan. 15, 1992

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

In collateral state court proceedings, respondent, a Cuban immigrant with little education and almost no knowledge of English, alleged, inter alia, that his plea of nolo contendere to first-degree manslaughter had not been knowing and intelligent, and therefore was invalid because his court-appointed translator had not translated accurately and completely for him the mens rea element of the crime in question. The state court dismissed the petition after a hearing, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed, the State Supreme Court denied review, and the Federal District Court denied respondent habeas corpus relief. However, the Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to a federal evidentiary hearing on the question whether the mens rea element of the crime was properly explained to him, since the record disclosed that the material facts concerning the translation were not adequately developed at the state court hearing, see Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 313, and since postconviction counsel's negligent failure to develop those facts did not constitute a deliberate bypass of the orderly procedure of the state courts, see id. at 317; Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 438.

Held: A "cause and prejudice" standard, rather than Fay's deliberate bypass standard, is the correct standard for excusing a habeas petitioner's failure to develop a material fact in state court proceedings. Townsend's holding that the Fay standard is applicable in a case like this must be overruled in [112 S.Ct. 1716] light of more recent decisions involving, like Fay, a

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state procedural default, in which this Court has rejected the deliberate bypass standard in favor of a standard of cause and prejudice. See, e.g., Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87-88, and n. 12; Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 751. It would be irrational to distinguish between failing to properly assert a federal claim in state court and failing in state court to properly develop such a claim, and to apply to the latter a remnant of a decision that is no longer upheld with regard to the former. Moreover, the concerns of finality, comity, judicial economy, and channeling the resolution of claims into the most appropriate forum that motivated the rejection of the Fay standard in the state procedural default cases are equally applicable to this case. Finally, applying the "cause and prejudice" standard here also advances uniformity in habeas corpus law. Thus, respondent is entitled to a federal evidentiary hearing if he can show cause for his failure to develop the facts in the state court proceedings and actual prejudice resulting from that failure, or if he can show that a fundamental miscarriage of justice would result from failure to hold such a hearing. See, e.g., McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U.S. 467, 494. Pp. 5-12.

926 F.2d 1492 (CA 9 1991), reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and SCALIA, SOUTER, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined, post, p. 12. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 24.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent is a Cuban immigrant with little education and almost no knowledge of English. In 1984, he was charged with murder arising from the stabbing death of a man who had allegedly attempted to intervene in a confrontation between respondent and his girlfriend in a bar.

Respondent was provided with a defense attorney and interpreter. The attorney recommended to respondent that he plead nolo contendere to first-degree manslaughter. Ore.Rev.Stat. § 163.118(1)(a) (1987). Respondent signed a plea form that explained in English the rights he was waiving by entering the plea. The state court held a plea hearing, at which petitioner was represented by counsel and his interpreter. The judge asked the attorney and interpreter if they had explained to respondent the rights in the plea form and the consequences of his plea; they responded in the affirmative. The judge then explained to respondent, in English, the rights he would waive by his plea, and asked the interpreter to translate. Respondent indicated that he understood his rights, and still wished to plead nolo contendere. The judge accepted his plea.

Later, respondent brought a collateral attack on the plea in a state court proceeding. He alleged his plea had not been knowing and intelligent, and therefore was invalid because his translator had not translated accurately and completely for him the mens rea element of manslaughter. He also contended that he did not understand the purposes of the plea form or the plea hearing. He contended that he did not know he was pleading no contest to manslaughter, but rather that he thought he was agreeing to be tried for manslaughter.

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After a hearing, the state court dismissed respondent's petition, finding that respondent was properly served by his trial interpreter and that the interpreter correctly, fully, and accurately translated the communications between respondent and his attorney. [112 S.Ct. 1717] App. 51. The State Court of Appeals affirmed, and the State Supreme Court denied review.

Respondent then entered Federal District Court seeking a writ of habeas corpus. Respondent contended that the material facts concerning the translation were not adequately developed at the state court hearing, implicating the fifth circumstance of Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 313 (1963), and sought a federal evidentiary hearing on whether his nolo contendere plea was unconstitutional. The District Court found that the failure to develop the critical facts relevant to his federal claim was attributable to inexcusable neglect, and that no evidentiary hearing was required. App. to Pet. for Cert. 37, 38. Respondent appealed.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recognized that the alleged failure to translate the mens rea element of first-degree manslaughter, if proved, would be a basis for overturning respondent's plea, 926 F.2d 1492, 1494 (1991), and determined that material facts had not been adequately developed in the state postconviction court, id. at 1500, apparently due to the negligence of postconviction counsel. The court held that Townsend v. Sain, supra, 372 U.S. at 317, and Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 438 (1963), required an evidentiary hearing in the District Court unless respondent had deliberately bypassed the orderly procedure of the state courts. Because counsel's negligent failure to develop the facts did not constitute a deliberate bypass, the Court of Appeals ruled that respondent was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question whether the mens rea element of first-degree manslaughter was properly explained to him. 926 F.2d at 1502.[1]

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We granted certiorari to decide whether the deliberate bypass standard is the correct standard for excusing a habeas petitioner's failure to develop a material fact in state court proceedings. 502 U.S. 807 (1991). We reverse.

Because the holding of Townsend v. Sain that Fay v. Noia's deliberate bypass standard is applicable in a case like this had not been reversed, it is quite understandable that the Court of Appeals applied that standard in this case. However, in light of more recent decisions of this Court, Townsend's holding in this respect must be overruled.[2] Fay v.

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Noia was itself a case where the [112 S.Ct. 1718] habeas petitioner had not taken advantage of state remedies by failing to appeal -- a procedural default case. Since that time, however, this Court has rejected the deliberate bypass standard in state procedural default cases, and has applied instead a standard of cause and prejudice.

In Francis v. Henderson, 425 U.S. 536 (1976), we acknowledged a federal court's power to entertain an application for habeas even where the claim has been procedurally waived in state proceedings, but nonetheless examined the appropriateness of the exercise of that power and recognized, as we had in Fay, that considerations of comity and concerns for the orderly administration of criminal justice may in some circumstances require a federal court to forgo the exercise of its habeas corpus power. 425 U.S. at 538-539. We held that a federal habeas petitioner is required to show cause for his procedural default, as well as actual prejudice. Id. at 542.

In Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72 (1977), we rejected the application of Fay's standard of "knowing waiver" or "deliberate bypass" to excuse a petitioner's failure to comply with a state contemporaneous objection rule, stating that the state rule deserved more respect than the Fay standard accorded it. 433 U.S. at 88. We observed that procedural rules that contribute to error-free state trial proceedings are thoroughly desirable. We applied a "cause and prejudice" standard to a petitioner's failure to object at trial, and limited

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Fay to its facts. Wainwright, supra, 433 U.S. at 87-88, and n. 12. We have consistently reaffirmed that the "cause and prejudice" standard embodies the correct accommodation between the competing concerns implicated in a federal court's habeas power. Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 11 (1984); Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 129 (1982).

In McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U.S. 467 (1991), we held that the same standard used to excuse state procedural defaults should be applied in habeas corpus cases where abuse of the writ is claimed by the government. Id. at 493...

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